Homeracing

Prominent Thoroughbred Racetracks That No Longer Exist

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

February 20th, 2019

There are dozens of Thoroughbred racetracks scattered across North America, but even more numerous are the tracks that have been shuttered over the course of time.

Many formerly top-class racetracks have been redeveloped, even in such major racing states as California and New York. A sampling of these gone-but-not-forgotten facilities brings to mind names such as….

The Race Tracks

Ak-Sar-Ben

It’s easy to guess where Ak-Sar-Ben was located—the clever name is simply “Nebraska” backwards. The track was a popular destination on the Midwest racing circuit, attracting an average of more than 10,000 racing fans per day throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Bay Meadows

For nearly 75 years, Bay Meadows formed a Northern California racing circuit with nearby Golden Gate Fields, but the oval where Horses of the Year Coaltown and Round Table won stakes races was closed for redevelopment in 2008.

Detroit Race Course

Michigan’s premier racetrack was best known as the home of the Michigan Mile, a prestigious event with a hefty purse that attracted a parade of high-class runners through the years. Many of those runners suffered surprising defeats, including 1967 Horse of the Year Damascus.

Garden State Park

At one time, the Garden State Futurity and the Gardenia Stakes at Garden State Park were equivalent to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies—championship-defining races won by such legends as Secretariat, Riva Ridge, Cicada, and Gallant Bloom. A fire destroyed the New Jersey track’s wooden grandstand in 1977, but Garden State Park proved resilient and bounced back eight years later to continue racing until 2001. In 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck passed the Preakness Stakes to run in the Jersey Derby at Garden State Park, also the race that led Scott Shapiro to fall in love with racing.

Havre de Grace

Anti-gambling laws that temporarily shut down New York racing in the early 1900s were a boon to the action in Maryland. Opening in 1912, Havre de Grace ran for nearly 40 years and hosted some of the sport’s greatest runners, including Man o’ War, War Admiral, and Seabiscuit.

Hollywood Park

Triple Crown winners Affirmed and Citation and great mares like Azeri and Zenyatta were among the countless champions to race over this popular California oval; in fact, the last horse to win a stakes races at Hollywood Park was the future two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome. Hollywood Park's land will become the home of the Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District, which will serve as home field for the relocated Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers.

Jamaica

One of New York’s longest-running racetracks, Jamaica used to host the Wood Memorial Stakes and was a contemporary of Saratoga, Belmont Park, and Aqueduct until a decision was made to shutter the track in 1959 and focus more attention on the newly-renovated Aqueduct.

Jerome Park

The original home of the Belmont Stakes, Jerome Park opened in 1866 and was a center of high-class racing in New York for nearly 30 years. August Belmont Sr., for whom the Belmont Stakes is named, served as the track’s first president.

Sheepshead Bay

The Suburban Handicap and the Futurity Stakes are two historic races first held at Sheepshead Bay, a high-profile New York racetrack that was the in the U.S. to install a turf course. It was closed in 1911 due to anti-gambling legislation that shut down all racing in New York for two years.

Washington Park

Renowned for its incredibly fast dirt track, Washington Park in Illinois was the site of several world-record performances during its glory days of the 1940s and 1950s, including Intentionally's blazing 1:33 1/5 mile in 1959.
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