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HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Swaps: We are losing our connection with History


As I studied our copies of The American Racing Manual as a kid, my favorite section was always the Hall of Champions … Probably because it  only included the true legends. It was the best of the best. Swaps was one of those special few.

Arguably the best horse ever to come out of California, Swaps was celebrated for his three seasons of racing brilliance. A stakes winner at two, the 1952 son of Khaled, would win only 3-of-6 in his first season, but he was only getting started.

Swaps rattled off wins in the San Vicente, Santa Anita Derby, an allowance, the Kentucky Derby, Will Rogers, Californian, and the American Derby before he tasted his first defeat as a sophomore. That first loss at three came in a match race against another Titan of the Turf ... Nashua. He had defeated his great rival in the Kentucky Derby, but was rumored to be less than at his best physically for the big match race. Swaps would not run again as a three-year-old, finishing the season with a record of 8-7-1-0.

At four, Swaps was even better. Wresting the Horse of the Year title away from Nashua, he won a handicap, the Broward, Argonaut, Inglewood, American, Hollywood Gold Cup, Sunset, and Washington Park Handicaps, before fracturing a cannon bone to end his racing career. His only losses came by a head due to a riding error, and a failed attempt on turf.

Swaps retired with a career mark of 25-19-2-2, despite consistently giving gobs of weight to his overmatched competition. Perhaps most impressively, the magnificent California-bred was the holder of no less than five world records. It’s a feat that will likely never be matched.

As a stallion, Swaps top runners included the champion trio of Affectionately, Chateaugay, and Primonetta. Inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1966, the Rex Ellsworth homebred passed away at the age of 20.

I wish Los Alamitos nothing but the best this year as they take their place on the Southern California Thoroughbred schedule. I really do. I just find it a shame that they felt the need to change the name of the Swaps Stakes to the Los Alamitos Derby. I feel like a piece of racing history was lost with their decision.


Time to toss another pretender from the 2014 Kentucky Derby list until we are down to only the true contenders - #3 We Miss Artie.  


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Older Comments about Swaps: We are losing our connection with History...

Some of the ones no lonher in that Hall of Champions are WHirlaway, Salvator, War Amiral, Alsab, Armed, Hindoo ( the on Sullivan thought so little of made 20 starts in 1881 won 18 placed once and was third once and Domino
One of the amazing things about that Hall of Champions is the ones from the early century (Colin, MOW, Exterminator) are still there an none of the new "champions" you know the phoney made in Japan like ones, are not allowed in at all.
I think it's a shame they changed the name! I can maybe see renaming anything with "Hollywood" in it, but this was senseless. And I don't agree with having races named after horses that do not reflect the horse - like the Man O'War. Also the fact that the Native Dancer is an ungraded race is shameful when there are graded stakes named for FAR lesser horses!
I don't understand being troubled with the Man O' War being on turf. Sure he never ran on it, but it is a very big Grade 1 race, just like the Secretariat. If the purpose of naming a race after a horse is to be a memorial to his power and ability, I am happy as long as it is a G1.
Wow how timely. My brother and I were going over the derby winners of our births and Swaps was nearby and I said that's Gene's(I have 6 brothers) probably the most awesome horse of the 50's. Don't change the name, it will not get more people at the track but it will most certainly turn off a few.
The race will always be around. Changing the name of it isn’t saving it. IMO if the track wants thoroughbred identity then it should make every opportunity to identify with the legends of the sport. This is an industry that really doesn’t seem to get it when it comes to history. We have the Man O War, a G1, which is fine and respectful for the sport, but it’s on the turf and the horse it was named after never ran on the turf. The Sword Dancer is another one. Sword Dancer ran three times on turf and never won and yet he ran 36 times on dirt and won 15 of them and ten were in stakes. Doesn’t make any sense to me but of course I’m very old and identify with the past (a hell of a lot more than the present).
i agree there's a place for innovation, i just don't see what's so innovative about renaming this race for the Los Alamitos track.
While I am sad about the change, many race names have been changed over the years. For instance, the Personal Ensign used to be the Firenze Handicap named after one of the great fillies of all time and a member of the Hall of Fame. Stronach changed several race names and changed the Morvich which had honored the first Cal bred winner of the Derby.
There is a place for history, but a place for innovation too. Better to see this race around and under a different name than gone.
i missed that Los Al was doing that. it makes no sense, and is a total shame...i agree that Swaps is an all-time great, and taking his name off the race is a senseless shame.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

As Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website, and co-hosts the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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