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1995.2.1277 Santa Anita.jpg

Swaps (Santa Anita Park photo)
Induction Year: 
Rex C. Ellsworth
Rex C. Ellsworth
Meshach Tenney
Iron Reward
Beau Pere
Career Years: 

Tab Wrapper


Swaps was so fast that he set a world record for a mile, a world record for a mile and 70 yards, a world record for 1 1/16 miles (and broke that one), equaled an American record for 1 3/16 miles on turf, set a world record for 1 5/8 miles and raced to three other track records — 10 in all — yet owner/breeder Rex Ellsworth said he never fully turned Swaps loose to see how fast he could run.


Bred in California, Swaps won three of his six starts as a juvenile and finished second in two others before emerging as a 3-year-old superstar in 1955. He began the year with victories in the San Vicente Stakes and Santa Anita Derby before defeating Nashua in the Kentucky Derby. Swaps then returned to California to win the Will Rogers, Californian and Westerner stakes. In August, Swaps tried the grass for the first time, winning the American Derby at Washington Park. He gave seven pounds to Traffic Judge and beat him by a length in 1:54 3/5 to equal the American record for 1 3/16 miles on turf.


Eleven days later, Swaps met Nashua in a match race at Washington Park. Swaps was not in his best form and was defeated by 6 1/2 lengths. It was his final race of the year.


As a 4-year-old, Swaps was recognized as Horse of the Year and Champion Handicap Male. He won eight of his 10 starts and carried 130 pounds seven times. His wins included the Los Angeles County Fair, Broward, Argonaut, Inglewood, American, Hollywood Gold Cup, Sunset and Washington Park handicaps. Swaps set a world record for one mile in the Argonaut (1:33 1/5), a world record for 1 1/16 miles in the Inglewood (1:39) and matched the world record for nine furlongs in the American Handicap (1:46 4/5). His time for the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Gold Cup was 1:58 3/5, a track record that missed the world mark by two-fifths of a second. In the Sunset, at 1 5/8 miles, Swaps shattered the world mark with a clocking of 2:38 1/5.   


Swaps fractured a cannon bone while training that October and was retired with a career record of 19-2-2 from 25 starts and earnings of $848,900. Ellsworth had sold a half-interest in Swaps to John Galbreath for $1 million during the 1956 season and later sold the other half for a like among. Swaps was sent to Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky for stud duty and was later moved to Spendthrift Farm.


Swaps sired 35 stakes winners, including Hall of Fame members Chateaugay and Affectionately. Swaps was euthanized in November 1972 at the age of 20.