1972: Convenience vs. Typecast
Well before the summer of 1972, Convenience and Typecast had taken turns beating each other at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. In the February 4 Santa Maria Handicap, Typecast was runner up to Turkish Trousers while Convenience was off the board.
Competing in Santa Anita's Santa Margarita Invitational in early March, Convenience again came in second to Turkish Trousers, but still finished one place higher than Typecast.
But the favor was returned in mid-May. Facing off again in Hollywood Park's Milady Handicap, Typecast avenged her defeat, taking first in the one mile event while Convenience took third.
The Vanity Handicap followed in early June. Also at the Track of the Lakes and Flowers, the filly and mare were one-two, the advantage again going to Convenience.
Hollywood Park beckoned them both again, and what followed was one of the biggest races in track history.
At some point after the Vanity, Willard L. Proctor, Convenience's trainer, reportedly made comment that his charge was as good as Typecast, according to a 2018 Blood-Horse article.
Word of this reached Fletcher Jones, the owner of Typecast. He wanted to see the two horses and Turkish Trousers square off again, with each owner contributing $25,000 to the purse.
Leonard Lavin, who campaigned Convenience, came up with a counter offer. Quoted in the June 17, 1972 edition of the Los Angeles Times, Lavin's response to Jones was, "Let's make it just you and me and let's make it worth while. Suppose each of us puts up $100,000."
The owners did exactly that, and Hollywood Park got into the act as well. The track added $50,000, and the terms for the match race was eventually ironed out: Convenience and Typecast, each carrying 120 pounds, would battle for a winner-take-all purse over 1 1/8 miles on Hollywood Park's main track on June 17.
It was not quite what Jones wanted, but he nonetheless had confidence in Typecast, who was trained by Tommy Doyle. Quoted in the same edition of the Los Angeles Times, Jones gave his thoughts on the contest. "This race was precipitated by some comments made by Mr. Lavin and his trainer in the press box after Convenience won the Vanity. They were saying Convenience was as good as Typecast or Turkish Trousers. I believe Mr. Lavin wanted match race conditions because they favor a speed horse such as Convenience. We accepted these conditions knowing that Typecast had to be a much better mare to win. We think that she is."
Over 53,000 wanted to see which horse was better on the day, and they ventured into Hollywood Park for the unique occasion. The seventh race on the program, the two principals were about to battle for the largest purse ever for a match race. The majority of the bettors saw the check going to Typecast, who went favored at 2-5. Convenience had her fair share of backing, too, the fans sending her out at even money.They entered the starting gate. Typecast, ridden by Bill Shoemaker, drew the inside post, wearing white blinkers. Aboard for Convenience, who donned red blinkers, was Jerry Lambert. In a few minutes, one of those pairs would achieve victory in what has become a truly special event in Hollywood Park's storied history.
Typecast won the break, but Convenience quickly snatched the lead and took control before the two passed the wire for the first time. As the fans shouted in the stands, Convenience widened her advantage. Shoemaker took Typecast to the outside at the end of the frontstretch, reducing the lead to a half-length in the clubhouse turn.
Convenience ran the opening quarter-mile in :23 1/5, a decent pace to start things off. She recorded an identical split for the next two furlongs, and Shoemaker kept Typecast right with her. He knew it would be costly to give Convenience an easy lead. They stayed close together entering the far turn, but Convenience began drawing away again by over a length as the crowd's excitement grew. She cleared six furlongs in 1:10 even. Typecast came right back at her just as quickly, putting a dent into the lead, but Convenience opened up again as they began their run into the final straight.
But Typecast was not done, and neither was Shoemaker. The Hall of Fame rider guided her to the inside, and she began reeling in the leader. The first mile went by in 1:35. The crowd grew louder. Typecast got closer. This had become than a match race. Hollywood Park was now hosting a bona fide battle royale.
Typecast, fearless in the final jumps, inched near her rival. Convenience held on for all she was worth, not about to concede defeat. The lead shrunk even more with the wire geting closer and closer. Who would have enough?
It was only fitting that the richest match race in history would have a photo finish. After a final time of 1:47 3/5, and a margin of victory that amounted to a head, Convenience held on for the victory.
When asked about when he knew the race was theirs, Lambert only needed five words: "One jump past the wire." Lavin praised the jockey, saying that "Jerry ran a beautiful race. He made Shoemaker run faster than I expected Bill wanted to with Typecast. Proctor's strategy was to make the mare run to our filly. And it worked. Typecast ran the type of race we wanted her to."
Shoemaker talked about the race afterwards. "Turning for home, I was riding my mare hard to keep her close, and I thought I was in trouble there because Jerry still was sitting still on his horse. But Jerry's filly then started drifting out and I dropped over to the inside. She ran a powerful race, but we just didn't get there."
As it turned out, Typecast got a bigger win after the end of the year, for she was honored at the Eclipse Awards as 1972's Top Handicap Mare.
Both Convenience and Typecast went on to more victories after their head-to-head encounter. Each of them had fine careers, and they deserved their accolades. But together, they share a place in history due to their participation in one of Thoroughbred racing's--and California racing's--most memorable events.
Sources: Abbott, Bion. "The Match Race." Los Angeles Times. June 17, 1972 Part III, Pages 1, 6
Hall, Tom. "The Vanity Handicap-Borne Match Race." The Blood-Horse. May 30, 2018 https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/227798/the-vanity-handicap-borne-match-race
Hollingworth, Hank. "Convenience Wins It." Independent Press-Telegram (Long Beach). June 18, 1972 S-1, S-8