1967: Hollywood Park's First Triple Dead Heat
Sometimes a horse race doesn't need to be a stakes event to be categorized as historic.
In fact, there are certain instances where a claiming contest can fit the criteria. Such was the case at Hollywood Park on July 3, 1957.
Going into that Wednesday's action, many who sat in the grandstand likely expected a routine day at the races. No stakes were on tap for that particular card, just a mix of maiden, claiming and allowance races with perhaps some longshots collecting the winners' purse.
But at day's end, the thousands who visited the Track of the Lakes and Flowers had a story to tell their friends and families.
The fourth race on the program was a six-furlong claiming event on the main track. Twelve horses made up the field, with Money Spender going off as the favorite at around even money. The only other horses seen as principal contenders were Leaful and Challenger Tom, with everyone else a longshot.
But as the old saying goes, anything can happen in Thoroughbred racing.
The bettors were largely right about Leaful and Challenger Tom. Money Spender was destined for an off-the-board result, but not before getting into early contention. He was joined by Joe's Pleasure, who was sent out at over 12-1 odds. Joe's Pleasure later battled with Leaful up front, and Challenger Tom came from behind to join in the mix for the win.
The only certainty in the stretch was that an upset would take place since Money Spender was out of contention. The question was how big of an upset would it be in terms of the odds.
As it turned out, the answer was not known at the wire.
Joe's Pleasure, Leaful and Challenger Tom all reached the finish together. The stewards went to work trying to determine who won as the fans all wondered who pulled off the close victory. What the stewards soon discovered was a result never before seen in the then-nineteen year history of Hollywood Park.
Paul Lowry of the Los Angeles Times wrote in the paper's July 4, 1957 edition that "Joe's Pleasure, Challenger Tom and Leaful, with jockeys George Taniguchi, Bill Shoemaker and Bill Harmatz up, respectively, were the deadlocked horses which the placing judges were unable to separate after nearly 15 minutes of intensive study of the pictures."
What they found was that Joe's Pleasure, Challenger Tom and Leaful had just combined for the first triple dead heat at Hollywood Park, and the first at any of the modern-day California racetracks.
Dead heats were nothing new to the sport in 1957, and neither were triple dead heats. But the latter was quite rare,for it was only "the sixth in the history of North American racing." But in terms of California, the patrons who stopped by Prairie Avenue that day witnessed something unprecedented.
The winners all recorded a victory on their resumes, as did their riders, trainers and owners. The winning bettors all had tickets to cash, but everyone inside Hollywood Park shared a tale that could not be made up if one tried. It would be approximately forty years before the track hosted another triple dead heat, making what happened just before Independence Day 1957 all the more special.
At dawn on July 3, 1957, Joe's Pleasure, Leaful and Challenger Tom were all claiming horses. By sunset, they were a part of California racing history.
"Joe's Pleasure, Challenger Tom and..." Lowry, Paul. "Horses in Triple Dead Heat: Joe's Pleasure, Leaful, Challenger Tom Finish in Rare Race Deadlock." Los Angeles Times July 3, 1957, Part IV, page 1
"the sixth in the history..." Ibid.