Horse for the Course: Los Angeles

There are several iconic sports records that will likely never be broken—or even approached: Baseball legend Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games played, hockey GOAT Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 career points, and boxer Archie Moore’s 131 knockouts, to name a few. In horse racing? Secretariat’s records in the three Triple Crown races have stood for almost 50 years, but there’s another lesser known record holder who’s been holding onto a Saratoga-specific title for more than 130 years.

A chestnut daughter of 1869 Travers winner Glenelg, Los Angeles began her super-star career in the spring of 1887. By the time she was retired in 1891, she had compiled a career record of 48-23-13 from a whopping 110 starts with purse earnings of $98,295. But her ultimate claim to fame came at the Spa. It was here that she won 16 stakes races, a number no horse has beaten since. It gets better: Los Angeles won 18 of 25 total starts at Saratoga, never finishing worse than third. And she did it largely in open company, meaning she regularly faced male competition. 

As a 2-year-old in Saratoga, Los Angeles won the historic Spinaway Stakes against fillies and the open Equity Stakes. The following year, after several disappointing efforts in the spring and early summer, she acquitted herself well once again at the Spa, with a strong second in both the Travers and Alabama, followed by consecutive wins in the Foxhall, Kenner and Pocahontas. 

In 1889, the Elias “Lucky” Baldwin–bred mare won the Excelsior at Saratoga, defeating future Hall of Famer Hanover, before traveling to New Jersey to defeat another future Hall of Famer—Firenze—in the Champion Stakes. Back at Saratoga, she closed out her summer with the first of her three consecutive victories in the Congress Hall Stakes, an event specific to its era that demanded its winner prevail in two of three heats at six furlongs. Los Angeles never lost a single heat in her three consecutive Congress Hall victories. 

Our horse for the course struggled early in 1890 but once again found her form at Saratoga by winning six of her seven stakes appearances. Her performance in the Excelsior was among her career-best efforts, as she defeated Hall of Famer Kingston (who won a record 89 career races) by a length; she also won the Beverwyck, California, Congress Hall, Kearney and Merchants’ at Saratoga that summer. 

A step slower in general as a 6-year-old in 1891, Los Angeles lost two of her first three starts at the Spa before conjuring up her old form and turning the clock back her third Congress Hall victory, a walkover in the Morrissey Stakes, and an easy victory in the important—and fittingly named—Saratoga Cup.   

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