The Super Bowl and Horse Racing: Tidbits and Trivia

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

February 11th, 2022

The Los Angeles area hosts its first Super Bowl in nearly 30 years on Feb. 13, but it will be a bittersweet moment for football fans who also love horse racing. SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, where the big game will be played, stands on the site of the former Hollywood Park, which closed in 2013.

Fans of both sports making the trek to Southern California will be sure to squeeze in an afternoon of racing at Santa Anita during their stay. While it's unlikely any of racing's stars will be out that weekend, given the stakes schedule, it's not unusual for a track near the Super Bowl's host city to pull out the stops for the visiting crowd.

Indeed, Santa Anita has a pretty good history of doing so. On the same weekend Los Angeles hosted the inaugural Super Bowl, in 1967, reigning Horse of the Year Buckpasser captured the San Fernando S. for his 14th consecutive victory.

RELATED: Seabiscuit to California Chrome: Hollywood Park memories sparked by SoFi Super Bowl

Fast forward to 1980, when the Super Bowl was held at the Rose Bowl in nearby Pasadena. Visitors to Santa Anita the day before got to see eventual Horse of the Year Spectacular Bid win the San Fernando. For those few who might have chosen to skip the first half of the game that Sunday, the payoff was witnessing future legend John Henry capture the San Marcos H. (G3).

In more recent years, Gulfstream Park, near Miami, has tended to put on a big show for Super Bowl guests. In 2007, reigning Horse of the Year Invasor starred in the Donn H. (G1) while future Hall of Famer Curlin dazzled with an electric maiden win earlier on the Saturday card. In 2010, Quality Road won the Donn and Court Vision captured the Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) on Super Bowl eve.

With the Super Bowl now a February fixture and the Donn's successor, the Pegasus World Cup, a late-January one, it's more likely fans will witness a classic trial on a Super Bowl weekend in Miami. That was the case in 2020, when Tiz the Law dominated in the Holy Bull S. (G3).

In addition to Santa Anita and Gulfstream, tracks such as Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Tampa Bay Downs, Turf Paradise in Phoenix, and Sam Houston are running live when the big game comes to town.

Going back to the earliest years of the Super Bowl, tracks in the host city frequently ran stakes or overnight handicaps named after professional football's championship. None rose to the level of a graded stakes, though Gulfstream's Super Bowl Handicap attracted quality runners as a dirt sprint in 1989 (notably Breeders' Cup winner Dancing Spree) and as a turf race in the mid-1990s (won by Mecke and Italian champion Misil).

Numerous Thoroughbreds over the past half-century, both in North America and abroad, have been named Super Bowl. None, however, have been of much account.

By far, the most prolific racehorse named Super Bowl was the Hall of Fame Standardbred who won the trotting Triple Crown – the Hambletonian, Yonkers Futurity, and Kentucky Futurity – in 1972. Also a champion at age two and a successful stallion in retirement, Super Bowl lived to the ripe age of 30.

Fittingly, Super Bowl the horse resided most of his life at Hanover Shoe Farm in Pennsylvania, the state that gave us Super Bowl quarterbacks Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas, Jim Kelly, George Blanda, and Jeff Hostetler.

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