On This Day...
Photo: The Blood-Horse Library
Hill Rise after the Santa Anita Derby.
Feb. 29, 1964
Hill Rise in the Santa Anita Derby

Hill Rise's victory in the Feb. 29 Santa Anita Derby was bigger than many expected.

"After winning five races in a row, you wondered how Hill Rise could possibly follow his own smash act with something bigger and better in the $100,000-added Santa Anita Derby, but he did not let his public down." Robert Hebert wrote in The Blood-Horse.

"The exceptional son of Hillary, bred and owned by George A. Pope Jr. and trained by 73-year-old W.B. Finnegan, cantered to the widest margin of victory in the fastest Santa Anita Derby ever run. He set one Derby record by reaching the wire six lengths ahead of his closest rival, and broke another by running the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47 2/5, two-fifths of a second faster than the race record set by Tompion in 1960.

"Hill Rise's act was so great that the 54,030 fans left Santa Anita convinced they had seen a true champion, possibly the best horse produced in California since Swaps."

By the time of the Kentucky Derby, Hill Rise had extended his win streak to eight and went off the Derby favorite. Under Bill Shoemaker, Hill Rise was getting to Northern Dancer at the end of the 1 1/4-mile race, but fell short a neck as the winner set a track record. Hill Rise then ran third to Northern Dancer in the Preakness.

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