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Pierce Recalls First Big 'Cap Winner

Retired Hall of Fame jockey Don Pierce, who won four Santa Anita Handicaps and is regarded as one of the best big-money riders of his era, has fond recollections of his first Big ’Cap win aboard Linmold, in 1960.

“It really meant a lot to my career,” said Pierce from his home in Encinitas, near Del Mar. “What helped too was that there was a lot of added publicity leading into the race because I had claimed foul against both Shoemaker (Bill, who rode Baghdad) and Arcaro (Eddie, who rode First Landing) in the race before, the Strub. (Arcaro won the race and Shoemaker was second, with Pierce third, aboard Linmold).

“Both of those horses should have been taken down but I remember right after the Strub, the guy who ran the place at that time, Carlton Burke, told Gil Stratton on television while I was still on the scale that ‘Don Pierce is trying to claim foul, but there won’t be any change.’

“There wasn’t, but there was a lot written about it and it helped bring attention to the Big ’Cap. I was still really a kid (23) and I had come down from Seattle in 1958. I was doing really good, but winning the Santa Anita Handicap put me on the map, that’s for sure.

“My horse broke good and we were lying in the middle of the pack and he came running when we turned for home. There were four horses on the wire and we beat Ralph Neves and Fleet Nasrullah by a head. The Santa Anita Handicap was the biggest race in the world at that time and there were so many people there you couldn’t see the cement.”

Trained by H.C. McBride, Linmold, off at 12-1, paid $26 to win. Baghdad, the 8-5 favorite with Shoemaker, finished fourth, beaten a head and two noses. First Landing and Arcaro, off as the second choice at 4-1, finished 11th in a field of 12.

Daily Racing Form’s chart footnote described Linmold’s win thusly: “Linmold was well placed from the start while staying in striking distance of the leaders, closed with a strong move between horses in the last furlong and responding to hard urging, got up in the last stride.”

Pierce would go on to win the 1962 Big ’Cap with Physician, again in ’65 with Hill Rise and yet again in 1972 with Triple Bend. He considers California-bred Hill Rise (with whom he also won the 1964 Santa Anita Derby) to be the best horse he ever rode in a career that spanned 31 years.

 

 

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