December 26 promises to be one of the most important days in the history of 1/ST Racing. It’s opening day of the Classic Meet at Santa Anita, opening day of the Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park and host date of the Christmastide Day stakes card at Laurel Park. All month, 1/ST BET will prepare you for a 26th of December to Remember with special content.
What’s in a name? When it comes to stakes races, it’s frequently about a great horse or significant human contributor of the past. And often you’ll find it’s about the chamber of commerce. Once upon a time, racetracks named big races for neighboring towns to attract local businesspeople to the racing scene. We’ll get a little bit of each of that on December 26.
Santa Anita in Arcadia, CA welcomes its neighbors from Malibu, La Brea and San Gabriel to the stakes schedule. Its Mathis Mile is named for the brothers Larry and Bill, furniture executives who have had a heavy hand at the track in ownership and sponsorships since the late 1980s.
Laurel Park will recognize both horses and horsepeople. Stakes honor Dave’s Friend, the millionaire sprinter who won 35 races between 1978-’86, racing until age 11; Gin Talking, the 1999 Maryland Million Lassie and 2000 Maryland Million Oaks winner; and Willa On the Move, 4-for-4 in Maryland in in 1988 before going on to win Keeneland’s Grade 1 Ashland and finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks and second in the Spinster.
On the human side, Laurel’s Heft Stakes pays respect to the late Sylvia and Arnold Heft (former NBA referee and co-owner of the Washington Bullets franchise), who campaigned the local stalwart Eighttofasttocatch. Meanwhile, Laurel’s Robert Manfuso Stakes is named for the long-time Maryland breeder and co-owner of Fourbros Stable, who eventually would become part-owner of the Laurel and Pimlico racetracks themselves.
Gulfstream will present the Tropical Park Derby and Tropical Park Oaks, continuing the history of races that began at Miami’s Tropical Park (which raced from 1931 until its 1972 closure), then moved to Calder and eventually to the Gulfstream Park schedule in 2014.
The 26th of December to Remember Stakes Lineup
Gulfstream Park | Championship Meet | Opening Day
$100K Tropical Park Derby
$100K Tropical Park Oaks
Santa Anita | Classic Meet | Opening Day
$300K G1 Malibu
$300K G1 American Oaks
$300K G1 La Brea
$200K G2 Mathis Mile
$200K G2 San Antonio
$200K G2 San Gabriel
Laurel Park | Christmastide Day Stakes
$100K Dave’s Friend
$100K Gin Talking
$100K Robert Manfuso
$100K Willa On the Move