Giving Swaps a Save

Hollywood Park, 1958. On a sunny day at the Track of the Lakes and Flowers, many were in attendance to see a new addition unveiled to the twenty-year old venue.

Anyone who had attended races there during the middle portion of the decade witnessed a familiar sight as the blanket was pulled back. In front of them was a statue of a horse and jockey, now immortalized only a short time after making Hollywood Park their domain.

In back of that duo was a wall. Over time, it would cover all the names of the Hollywood Gold Cup winners, including this particular Thoroughbred. But on the front side in the upper left corner were three words that said it all:



By the time he exited the races, Swaps ensured his place in California racing history. A Thoroughbred who rarely tasted defeat, the Khaled colt won 19 times in 25 starts and was worse than third only twice. He handled all kinds of distances while sprinting and routing, and his greatest accomplishments are stuff of legend.

-He won the 1955 Kentucky Derby, and is just one of four Cal-breds to win the Run for the Roses.

-He is just one of eleven horses to win the Santa Anita Derby/Kentucky Derby double.

-He set or equaled multiple track or world records at Hollywood Park in 1956, winning races like the Hollywood Gold Cup and Sunset Handicap.

-He earned Champion Older Dirt Male and Horse of the Year honors for 1956.

A Hall of Fame induction would follow, and Swaps would live for fourteen more years after the statue was revealed, passing in 1972 at the age of 20.

But Swaps has lived on since then. Still regarded as one of the best Cal-breds of all time, the chestnut son of Khaled also had a race named after him in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park, which was part of the spring/summer stakes lineup for decades. And anyone who attended races at the Home of Champions saw that statue that captured a glimpse of the colt's greatness.

But 2013 brought changes. Once the announcement that Hollywood Park would shut down at the end of that year came, life without the venerable racetrack began. Its stakes were divided up between Del Mar, Los Alamitos and Santa Anita. Los Al attained the Swaps Stakes, but rebranded it with a new name, effectively ending what had been a decades-long tribute to one of the all-time greats in the state.

And the Swaps statue? That was sent into storage as Hollywood Park vanished and a new stadium began to take shape.

In the early months of 2023, that stadium has been open for a while, but the Swaps statue is nowhere to be found in the public eye. Oh, it is still intact, but it is still in storage as the chestnut colt's era continues further and further into the past.

A few weeks back, a group dedicated to bringing the Swaps statue is at work making this goal come to fruition. It is a worthy goal, and one that should be given more recognition. In the pantheon of Cal-breds, Swaps has indeed stood the test of time. The word "legend" does not even seem to fit him. When it comes to California racing, he is an icon.

As we approach seventy years since Swaps made his debut, it is time to bring his statue out of the confines of storage. He does not deserve to stay in there; he should be introduced to new generations of race fans, and those who are still around and experienced his greatness should have the opportunity to feel his presence again.

The question is, where should the statue go? There are a couple of possible places. Letting it stay in Inglewood, where the stadium is now, makes sense. It would allow Swaps to be at his old stomping ground in spirit, letting those in the area know that a champion horse roamed there all those years ago.

Or how about Santa Anita? That is another logical candidate should track management be interested. Swaps never lost at Santa Anita in four starts, and won the 1955 Santa Anita Derby to become just the second horse to sweep both that race and the Kentucky Derby. What's more, the Swaps statue would be a perfect fit along the other statues of Thoroughbreds at the venue.

Think about this: Seabiscuit's statue symbolizes the great horse's heyday in the late 1930s and 1940. John Henry represents the 1980s. And Zenyatta brings us back to the late 2000s. Why not have Swaps, California's greatest horse of the 1950s, represented at a track where he reigned undefeated.

It makes perfect sense that the Swaps Statue remain in California, given Swaps was a Cal-bred. But whereever the statue may be displayed next, those who gaze upon it will be introduced, if not reacquinted, with an amazing horse who was dominant, nuanced, popular and sublime.

For those who would like to join this truly noble cause, here is the link.

What's Become of Our Swaps Statue

Swaps had many admirers during his era, and he deserves more.

Let's bring Swaps back to the public.

Published by Support California Horse Racing, February 14, 2023