Hollywood Gold Cup
July 14, 1956

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A Bond of History
(Khaled -- Iron Reward, by Beau Pere)

Video Available @  

My sincere thanks to the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America for permission to excerpt their material that those new to the sport of racing may also re-live the moment.

Click photos to enlarge

Iron Reward California's Broodmare of the Year 1955

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of the great 


Swaps.JPG (64927 bytes)

Many believe 
him to be the greatest 
 of all time.


Swaps inspired one of the most intensely loyal followings of any thoroughbred in modern history.

Foaled on March 1, 1952, at the Ontario, California,
 ranch of his owner and breeder, Rex C. Ellsworth, he was the most successful of a remarkable number of successful offspring 
by Khaled, like Alibhai and Heliopolis, an English-bred son of the famed stallion, Hyperion. 

At maturity, Swaps stood 16 hands 2 inches, 
and weighed slightly under 1,200 pounds --  and also magnificently muscled. With his abnormally deep chest, Swaps looked lower to the ground, 
and his conformation suggested as much pure speed as staying quality.  Apart from mechanical details of his physique, 
the Ellsworth colt's most salient attribute was a sinuous grace few horses possess. Thoroughbreds are so constructed that 
all of them are somewhat jerky in the movement of their hindquarters at a walk. Swaps' action was noticeably more fluid --
 almost like that of a greyhound. 
Nor did he lumber to his feet from a lying position in the manner of most large animals; he arose nimbly -- for all his bulk, 
he was surprisingly supple and handy.

Of his 19 lifetime victories over three seasons, 1954-1956, 
Swaps accounted for 13 in his native California, and except for the clock,
 he was rarely tested. 
Hollywood Park was his personal domain. 
Swaps made 14 starts in Inglewood and won 10 times, 
setting world records for the mile (1:33 1/5), 1 1/16 miles (1:39), and 1 5/8 miles (2:38 1/5). 
His 1:46 4/5 clocking in the 1956 American Handicap at Hollywood merely equaled the 
world record at the time.

Of his $848,900 career bankroll, Swaps earned $547,800 in California. Had Swaps done his winning 30 years later, his total would have gone through the roof. Take a look at what Swaps missed by being born too soon.
Race Swaps Win Purse 1987 Total Purses
San Vicente Stakes $   13,650 $   75,000
Santa Anita Derby $   90,400 $  500,000
Will Rogers Stakes $   14,500 $   75,000
Californian Stakes $   63,700 $  300,000
Westerner (Hol. Derby) $   34,700 $  250,000
American Handicap $   57,700 $  150,000
Hollywood Gold Cup $  100,000 $  500,000
Sunset Handicap $  64.400 $  250,000
After Swaps won the San Vicente Stakes in January, 
he missed a few weeks' training because of an infection that developed on his right forefoot. Trainer Meshach Tenney improvised a pad, 
made of soft shoe leather, to insert between the hoof and the horseshoe and Swaps was sent forth for the Santa Anita Derby 
on February 19, despite the interruption in his preparation. He won the race but, did not start again until his ventures in Kentucky, having been shipped there by rail, not plane.

arriving by train

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The Ellsworths and Meshach Tenney 

Editors Note: These railway cars were called Palace Cars and were carried on the crack passenger trains. They were designed for horses and their grooms. They were designed to carry 21 horses. When a single horse was shipped, they had quite luxurious accommodations. 

The plain mode of transportation employed by Swaps was typical operating procedure for what was becoming the largest, and one of the most powerful, turf empires in the world.

The association between Rex Ellsworth and his partner/trainer Meshach Tenney began when they were eight-year-old school mates in Safford, Arizona. Devout Mormons, each man served the traditional stint as a missionary -- Tenney in Colorado and Ellsworth in Africa. Johnny Burton, who rode Swaps during most of the colt juvenile campaign, was a Mormon and left the stable to go on his mission.

This will be put back soon. Computer breakdown!

Trainer Mish Tenney and Rex Ellsworth
Swaps setting New World Record
1 Mile 70 Yards - 139.2
Photos courtesy Bill Miller


Ellsworth's entrance onto the thoroughbred scene
was scarcely grand. Accompanied by a brother, Heber, he arrived in Lexington in 1933 in a rented truck and $600; the truck rattled back to Arizona with eight fillies and mares -- a remarkable quantity even at Depression prices -- selected strictly on the basis of looks, since the brothers could not afford to pay for pedigree.

That was the foundation of a racing-breeding complex from which emerged Arigotal, and to which was added Silver Cord, and, finally Khaled, Ellsworth having purchased the noted stallion from Aly Khan in 1946 for $160,000, which he had borrowed from a Denver bank.
By the time Swaps came along, the Ellsworth empire was firmly entrenched with main headquarters at Chino, California, a streamlined layout of efficiency, but to Eastern eyes, some-what suggestive of a prison camp, with its barren paddocks and wire fences. The deficiency in grass was off set by an elaborate electronic feed mill, designed to provide all vital elements of the equine diet. A  number of traditionalists were horrified by the "factory" methods of breeding, breaking and training thoroughbreds employed by the cowboy outfit -- which was based on treatment of horses as outdoor animals, rather than as pets.  Few could criticize the results, however, for horses flying the black-and-red Ellsworth silks were distinguished as much by their good manners as by their speed. Ball of fire that he was in action, Swaps was gently as a lamb otherwise, and during his invasion of Kentucky, trainer Tenney slept in the stall with the colt, another of the human-interest facets which made Swaps such a public idol.
With the money he realized from Swaps (who derived his name when the partners swapped ideas on the subject back and forth) Ellsworth was able to expand yet further, and that sum was considerable.
Ellsworth and Tenny continued to roll out stakes winners with assembly-line efficiency. Terrang - Candy Spots -  Prove It - Olden Times and The Shoe. In 1962 and 1963, long after Swaps had retired, Ellsworth led the nation's owners in money won from his base in California.
Swaps was purchased from Ellsworth by Mr. and Mrs. John W. Galbreath to stand his years at stud in Kentucky.
Editors Note:  On the Second Running main page you will find an audio of Swaps 1956 Hollywood Gold Cup
(Click here)

In five consecutive races - Swaps either set a world's record or equaled it.