The Post World War II Years
Part 1 -- Part 2 and Part 3


June 3, 1943: 
To further the war effort, the Navy took over Tanforan
racetrack and used it as a training base.

The 1945 racing season had compiled remarkable figures . . . .


My sincere thanks to The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America 
by William Robertson
for permission to excerpt this article that we may re-live the moment.

In the first full season after the war, every single gross record pertaining to American racing was again shattered, and the modern era of the sport began again from scratch. Since, after a shaky settling down period, new over-all financial records were to be set in each succeeding year 
during the postwar period.

However, the bubble was to burst in the near future,
and much of the "growth" resulted from desperation measures to pump it back up through "lateral expansion" (more racing days) and "vertical development" (more races per day).
 A number of new tracks came into the picture, contributing significantly to the rise in statistical summaries. In 1946, however, with one notable exception,
 there was no hint of gloomy days.

Ted Atkinson,
once more the leading jockey according to both races won (233) and money won, in 1946 became the first rider in history to hit the million-dollar range
as his mounts earned $1,036,825. The studious, gentlemanly native of Toronto, nicknamed "The Professor" off the track, was known as "The Slasher" on it, his trademark being an arm pointing straight at the sky, ready to 
descend with the whip.
Still hustling although he was at the top,
Atkinson rode in 1,377 races.

However, the jockey best known as a money rider
had no opportunity to participate in the unprecedented largesse. When Please Me stumbled in the fourth race at Santa Anita January 3, 1946, jockey George Woolf was jerked over his neck and hit the ground head first.
The riderless horse did not fall -- in fact, he ran on to finish first -- but 
"The Iceman" never regained consciousness.

George Woolf never set any records of the conventional sort,
although he led the country in number of stakes victories in 1942 (twenty-three) and 1944 (fourteen). Also a native of Canada (Cardston, Alberta)
he was the diametric opposite of Ted Atkinson so far as activity was concerned. In an eighteen-year career Woolf averaged slightly more than 
200 mounts per season,
and in his later years he accepted considerably fewer than that number.
 Woolf was the jockey's jockey.

His numerous scores in rich races,
included three successive victories in the Futurity, American Derby, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Harve de Grace Handicap.
In less concentrated form, he also won the Preakness, Realization, Hopeful, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Santa Anita and Arlington Handicaps --
plus a number of overnight races,
 for he did not disdain mounts from small stables, (The Kentucky Derby was one race Woolf never won, despite nine tries at it.)

Brusque, aloof and tersely outspoken,
"The Iceman" was held in awe by many, yet he was a 
persuasive salesman when called upon.
He had an agent, but arranged a good many of his rides himself, and, as a person who moved in a direct line all the way, 
he was somewhat contemptuous of contracts and such; to him, a verbal agreement was ironclad,
not did he brook deviations from the straight and 
narrow in any form.

"The Iceman" just as aptly could have been nicknamed "The Sandman," for Woolf possessed
that most valuable asset to any athlete, the ability to relax.
He could turn sleep on and off like a faucet.
As other jockeys might pace the floor nervously while waiting for their race to come up, Woolf might snooze. When the time came,
 he could rouse himself, yawn,
stretch, amble down to
 the paddock and climb aboard. After a ride that gave palpitations to spectators,
 he was quite capable of going promptly back to sleep.

The new-found prosperity in 1946 was evident in many ways.
The Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Santa Anita Derby and Hollywood Gold Cup were raised to an added value of $100,000 -- and it was announced that the original "hundred thousand," the Santa Anita Handicap, would be boosted as necessary in added value to guarantee at least that sum to the winner, exclusive of second, third and fourth money. 
At the bigger tracks, grooms and exercise boys were
 awarded a $20 bonus for each winner, and a $10 fee for each starter, regardless of where it finished. Yearling sales were phenomenal as an all-time record
average of $5,909 was realized.

One notable exception . . .
Part 2