Thoroughbreds thundered around U.S. tracks in approximately 31,000 races this year, but the one race that will stand above them all was the $100,000 winner-take-all match race at Chicago's Washington Park. It had all the elements that make for intense drama: the West was represented by Swaps, a golden chestnut unbeaten in eight 1955 starts and victor in the Kentucky Derby. From his home at Aqueduct, to uphold the prestige of the East—and to find revenge for his Derby defeat—came Nashua, the late William Woodward Jr.'s strapping bay. As the pair paraded to the post (opposite page, Nashua wears No. 1), they commanded the undivided attention of the racing world and aroused millions of others who do not ordinarily think of themselves as racing fans. Here and on the following pages Mark Kauffman's color pictures recapture the exciting moments of the Race of the Year—a race that would inevitably decide who would be Horse of the Year (see page 21).
As the gates open for the long-awaited race, Nashua, on the inside, responds to Eddie Arcaro's whip to get the jump on his rival
First time by the grandstand it's Nashua, settling into full stride, by half a length as Swaps finally gets himself straightened out
Looking for firmer racing footing, Willie Shoemaker quickly reins Swaps farther to the outside while Arcaro gets Nashua away flying
December 5, 1955
Nashua nears the finish line to win by six and a half lengths after beating off Swaps's challenges during an exciting first mile
The victory theirs, the tired team of Nashua and Arcaro walks back to the winner's circle to be greeted by a swarming mob of police, newsmen—and a tender pat from young Bill Woodward