The Washington, D.C. International was an American Grade I invitational horse race. Inaugurated in 1952, it was raced on turf in Laurel, Maryland, at a distance of miles (12 furlongs) and attracted top turf horses from North America and Europe. It was held annually until 1994, when it could no longer compete with the Breeders' Cup Turf.
When it was founded by John D. Schapiro (owner of the Laurel Park Racecourse), it was the only international horse race in the United States. Until then, bringing horses from Europe and elsewhere to the United States for a specific race was unprecedented.〔() "Sport: International Laurels", ''Time'', October 27, 1952. Accessed February 15, 2011.〕 J. Samuel Pearlman, editor of the ''Daily Racing Form'', discussed the idea with Schapiro after the 1950 racing season. Less than a year and half later, the concept became a reality.〔2007 Maryland Jockey Club Media Guide, page 45 on March 3, 2007.〕
Usually just called the "International," the race drew the best Thoroughbreds from the U.S. and Europe; it was important enough to attract horses from the Soviet Union during the 1960s, despite the Cold War.〔() "Soviet Horses To Race at Laurel". ''New York Times'' (payment required to read full article).〕 In the 1980s, the Washington, D.C. International was part of a million-dollar bonus given to any horse who won both it, the Canadian International Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, and the Turf Classic at Belmont Park in New York.
In the race's early days, few American horses excelled on the turf; some were turf specialists, while others built their race records on the dirt and then specifically switched over to grass for the "International". U.S. Hall of Famer Kelso won five straight Horse of the Year honors competing almost entirely on the dirt in the early 1960s and finished second three times in a row in the International. In 1964, the great gelding finally won the race in an American record time of 2:23.80. He had given the event international status in Europe by just missing three times, before winning it at age seven.〔2007 Maryland Jockey Club Media Guide, page 45 on March 3, 2007.〕
The Washington, D.C. International Stakes was raced at a distance of miles from its inception in 1952 until 1986, when it was shortened to miles. With the exception of 1993 (when it was raced at one mile), the International remained at miles until its final running in 1994.
Run the Gantlet won the International in 1971; his son Providential won it in 1981. Providential was bred and previously owned by Bertram R. Firestone, whose wife Diana won the race the following year with her filly April Run after coming in second to Providential in 1981.
During its run, the D.C. International Stakes was won by horses from the United States 22 times and by foreign representatives 21 times.
Most wins by a horse:
* 2 - Bald Eagle (1959 & 1960)
* 2 - Fort Marcy (1967 & 1970)
Most wins by an owner:
* 3 - Nelson Bunker Hunt (1973, 1975 & 1976)
Most wins by a jockey:
* 3 - Manuel Ycaza (1959, 1960 & 1967)
* 3 - Lester Piggott (1968, 1969, 1980)
Most wins by a trainer:
* 4 - Maurice Zilber (1973, 1975, 1976 & 1980)
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