‘The Gold Cup’ at Santa Anita, 1949

Jun 26th 2014 12:49 am |

On Saturday, the race formerly known as the Hollywood Gold Cup will be run at its new home at Santa Anita Park. While “The Gold Cup” had been a fixture on the racing calendar at the now defunct Hollywood Park since it opened in 1938 to its close last year, Saturday’s running at Santa Anita will not be the first time it has hosted one of California’s premier races for older horses.

In May 1949, as it prepared for its Spring meeting, a fire destroyed the grandstand and clubhouse at Hollywood Park. As a result of the devastation, the Hollywood Turf Club moved its entire Spring meeting, just two weeks from opening day at the time of the fire, to Santa Anita. The relocated meet is why the history of many Hollywood Park stakes include the odd anomaly of being run elsewhere in 1949.

The Los Angeles Times stellar race reporter Paul Lowry wrote this of the Hollywood Gold Cup at “Holly-Anita” for the July 17th 1949 edition of the newspaper:

Solidarity and Ralph (Portuguese Pepperpot) Neves took the short way home to win the tenth running of the $100,000 Hollywood Gold Cup before 40,535 racing fans at Holly-Anita yesterday.”

Rushing along the rail and hugging it for dear life all the way, Solidarity roared home a length and one quarter on top of pace-setting Ace Admiral in 2:01 1/5 to equal Seabiscuit’s track record…”

Heralded as a wide open race Solidarity made the mile and one-quarter battle for gold and the acclaim of thousands look easy…”

Solidarity was a $21,000 bargain buy at the Louis B. Mayer dispersal sale of Feb. 27, 1947, when other horses were selling for $100,00 and $200,000. His guaranteed $100,000 net for winning the Gold Cup shot his all-time earnings to $287,135.”

[Jockey] Neves got his education in the college of hard knocks, but the first thing he learned in racing was to save ground. He has been a confirmed rail lover ever since. His wild desire to get there has been costly at times, drawing him suspensions from the stewards and nasty spills. Once he was given up for dead, but he came back fighting and is one of the country’s top riders.”

Although Neves has won many a stakes in California the Gold Cup was his first victory in a $100,000 race…

While the crowd was the smallest in Gold Cup history since before the war the wagering on the big race itself was the tops of the season — $445,544 — and the days handle was $2,491,730, the second largest…

The lovely owner of Solidarity is the daughter of Harry Curland, caterer at nearly all California tracks [The Associated Press reported: “Solidarity is owned by blond Mrs. Nat Gladstone of Beverly Hills, wife of a motion picture executive.”]

While the Gold Cup is Solidarity’s greatest triumph, with 115 pounds on his back, he has captured other important stakes. He won the $50,000 Westerner by eight lengths a year ago. He captured the $50,000 Golden Gate Handicap, and at the current meetings was second in the Golden State Breeders Handicap and the American before yesterday’s triumph.”

Carl (Slim) Roles, who should have won the Santa Anita Handicap with Time Supply in 1936, is the conditioner of Solidarity, and who is there in the congregation today to say he didn’t do a grand job?”

Solidarity’s win in the Hollywood Gold Cup was the high-point of his career. He retired with eleven wins from fifty-two career starts and earned over $357,000. At stud he produced a solid female sprinter named Nushie1 who won the Berkeley Handicap in California and the Interborough Handicap in New York. She was the only one of his progeny to earn over $100,000 for a career.

With the possibility (and hope) for many future editions of the Hollywood Gold Cup in Arcadia, Solidarity’s lasting legacy could be as the first ever winner of the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park.


Paul Lowry. “Solidarity Takes Hollywood Classic,” Los Angeles Times, 17 July 1949

“Solidarity Upset Winner of Hollywood Gold Cup Race,” St Petersburg Times, 17 July 1949

You can see footage of the race and the huge crowd at Santa Anita Park on Gold Cup day in 1949 here

Hollywood Park reopened less than a year after the fire that destroyed the grandstand and clubhouse. Read more about the fire here

Quick Commentary: I am having a hard time understanding why Santa Anita felt compelled to change the name of the Hollywood Gold Cup. Why drop “Hollywood” from a race with such rich history? The name change is disrespectful of the race’s history in my opinion. Any insight on this would be appreciated.

I was in New York at Belmont Park for California Chrome’s Triple Crown try. We had seats at the eighth pole and when they ran by, I really thought he might get there. Oh well. Maybe next year…or never. Either way, I’m a racing fan and always will be. I posted some pictures of Belmont Stakes day on my Instagram account here

Countdown to Saratoga and summer racing…the best time of the year to be a racing fan.

Thanks for reading and good luck

  1. According to Lowry’s article quoted here, “Nushie” was the nickname for Bernice Gladstone — Solidarity’s owner —  given to her by her father, the well known racetrack caterer, Harry Curland. []

Filed in Hollywood Gold Cup,Hollywood Park,horse racing history

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