The 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup
Some Thoroughbreds get better at racing as they get older. Such was the case with Noor, who put together varied results during his time in England and the first year he arrived in California. But the 1950 season was a completely different story.
Noor's first start at age five was the San Pasqual Stakes, where he finished second. He stayed in the top three every time throughout the season, along the way defeating 1948 Triple Crown champion Citation four times while picking up victories in the Santa Anita and San Juan Capistrano Handicaps, and setting a new world record for 1 1/4 miles in the Golden Gate Handicap up North.
The autumn saw Noor head East to Belmont Park, where he placed in the Manhattan Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup before returning to Hollywood Park. Entered in a 1 1/8 mile allowance contest, he jettisoned his usual come-from-behind style of running to stay close to the pace and dominate his rivals by daylight. Among the horses he defeated that day was Assault, winner of the Triple Crown four years earlier. That gave Noor the unprecedented achievement of beating two horses in that exclusive club. In the years since, only Exceller has experienced that rare moment when he took the upset over Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup.
What that allowance also did was function as a tune-up for Noor as he readied for the venue's marquee race, the Hollywood Gold Cup. The same could be said for Assault, who was also entered. Joining them for the eleventh installment on December 9 was an impressive array of Thoroughbreds who boasted laudable credentials:
Great Circle-Winner of the 1950 Del Mar Derby and Cinema Handicap who later posted a victory in the 1951 Santa Anita Maturity.
Hill Prince-That year's Preakness winner who went on to capture Three-Year-Old and Horse of the Year honors.
Next Move-The eventual champion Three-Year-Old Filly of 1950, her campaign yielded victories in the Coaching Club American Oaks, Beldame Handicap, and Vanity Handicap, among others.
On Trust-The California-bred Santa Anita Derby victor of 1947 who was that season's Preakness runner up. He later finished first in multiple stakes, including the Santa Catalina and San Francisco Handicaps.
Palestinian-1949's Jersey Stakes and Empire City Handicap winner who also placed in all three Triple Crown races that same season. In 1950, he won the Westchester Handicap.
Ponder-The 1949 Kentucky Derby winner who won several takes between that year and 1950, including the American Derby, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Santa Anita Maturity.
The lineup was amazing, but many pictured Noor as the winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup. As a result, he was made the odds-on favorite for the 1 1/4 mile race, which was a distance he was well acquainted with. The same went for a couple of others in the cast, and that sprinkled the Hollywood Gold Cup with more intrigue.
Leading for much of the race was Next Move, who used the same tactic to score her Vanity win one week earlier. But the pace was fast, providing a benefit to the closers. Namely, it was of great help to Noor, who was long accustomed to rallying from far back.
Noor used the advantage in full. Hill Prince had taken the lead as he neared the top of the stretch, but Palestinian was not far behind. Noor and John Longden swept around the far turn, passing opponents as he sought the Gold Cup. It quickly became just Hill Prince and Palestinian ahead of him. Hill Prince tried to stay in front, but Palestinian caught him late. On the outside came Noor, with plenty of speed and fearlessness in his arsenal. The fans roared as they saw a fantastic conclusion to the Hollywood Gold Cup play out in front of them.
Palestinian stayed towards the inside, pressing on. But he could not match the strength of Noor, who was catching up with every stride. With just a few jumps left, the brown and stately son of the highly respected sire Nasrullah struck the front with a determination made of iron, getting up in time to win by a length. Palestinian stayed in second, and Hill Prince closed from behind to nab third.
When the time for the race came up, everyone saw a new stakes record. Noor ran the 1 1/4 mile distance in 1:59 4/5, lowering Cover Up's 1947 clocking by a fifth of a second. It would be five years before Noor ceded his standard to another Gold Cup winner, but not by much. Rejected made it to the wire a fifth of a second quicker in 1955.
Finishing off the board was Assault, and the 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup turned out to be his exit from the races. It also happened to be the career finale for Noor, who notched his twelfth career win. Both horses had made their respective marks on the sport as they took part in competition for the final time. Assault retired as the seventh Triple Crown winner, easily giving him immortal status among Thoroughbreds. But Noor carved a unique piece of turf history for himself.
To begin with, he defeated Citation and Assault multiple times, and no horse has done that against two Triple Crown winners since.
His work for the 1950 campaign, which included several records like the aforementioned world and stakes clockings, netted him a well deserved Handicap Horse honor.
He joined Kayak II and Seabiscuit as the only horses to win the Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup. And only Kayak II had won the two races in the same year before Noor.
Looking back after close to three-quarters of a century, the 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup featured a truly magnetic collection of talented horses along with future legends of Thoroughbred racing.
And on that December day at Hollywood Park, one of those future legends delivered a truly magnetic performance of his own, ensuring his name would live on for generations.