1800s | Horse Racing Timeline
Shippingport Island, a peninsula near the falls of the Ohio River, held horse racing. The track was called Elm Tree garden. During this time, the Falls of the Ohio was primarily occupied by French settlers, whose fur-trading businesses carried them upriver from New Orleans. Racing in Louisville was becoming popular and it was felt that its location other than city streets would be safer.
Churchill Downs: America's Most Historic Track by Kimberly Gatto
November 20, 1822, the National Course of D.C. hosted a famous battle between the North and South. James Harrison of Brunswick, Virginia, wagered $5,000 that his horse, Sir Charles, could beat New Yorker, Cornelius Van Ranst’s, American Eclipse, in a series of four-mile heats. Van Ranst accepted and the great the American competition was set into motion. Sir Charles was the champion of Virginia and embodied the Southern ideal of elegance and speed. American Eclipse, a New York mare through and through, was built mostly for power and stamina. Before the race even started, Sir Charles injured himself in a trial run. Harrison agreed to pay the forfeit and decided to put Sir Charles through at least one heat with American Eclipse. Sir Charles lost badly, breaking down in the last portion of the race, giving American Eclipse a comfortable victory. The race itself put the National Course of D.C. on the map. Out of the ten-odd racetracks that graced the Washington area from as early as the late 1700s, the National Course was the best known nationally. It was more permanent than earlier racetracks and could draw crowds of 4,000 people, a mix of ethnicities, sexes, ages, and classes. The National Course drew various crowds, from “the President of the United States to the beggar in his rags.”
July 23, 1826, the Kentucky Association (also known as the “Kentucky Racing Association”) was formed to promote the breeding and racing of thoroughbred horses in Kentucky. Prominent locals including planter and politician Henry Clay, Jesse Bledsoe, Dr. Elisha Warfield and Thomas F. Marshall all help establish the Association. Between 1828 and 1834, the Association acquired 65 acres of land in Lexington, Kentucky, that is today at the east end of 5th Street at Race Street. The Association built a one-mile dirt racetrack with a grandstand and stables to host thoroughbred flat racing events.
October 19, 1826, the Williams Race Track held racing for three days in Lexington for the Kentucky Association, until land could be purchased and a racecourse built.
1827, the Hope Distillery Track opened in Louisville on what is presently Main and 16th Streets. There were also several other private tracks located on farms throughout the region. One of the more prominent of these was Peter Funk’s Beargrass Track, located in an area now bordered by Hurstbourne Lane and Taylorsville Road.
1831, the first running of the Phoenix Hotel Stakes took place at the Kentucky Association Course in Lexington. The race was named in honor of the Phoenix Hotel, a landmark on Main Street in Lexington for more than 150 years. The three-year-old McDonough earned $150 for the win. The race was run in heats from 1831 to 1877. For several years it was run under the name of the Brennan Stakes, Chiles Stakes, and Association Stakes, in addition to the variations on Phoenix.
1832, Oakland Race Course was established by the Louisville Association for the Improvement of the Breed of Horses. A 76 man organization that included distinguished locals such as; Robert Breckinridge, C.W. Thurston and James Guthrie help get the Association started. That track, built on 55 acres, was purchased from brothers Henry and Samuel Churchill. Samuel served as the track’s first President.
Churchill Downs: America’s Most Historic Racetrack by Kimberly Gatto
October 13, 1832, the first Black Maria won the race for the Jockey Club purse of $600 at the Union Course. She won so many races her purse winnings alone amounted to nearly $15,000, a substantial sum for the period. In 1870, an article about her in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine said: “The track was heavy, and yet, to achieve a victory, twenty miles had to be run. We wonder if a horse on the turf today could stand up under such a performance as this?” The second Black Maria also had an illustrious career.
In the Fall of 1883, the Oakland Race Course opened. The track brought racing back to a formal site, complete with a clubhouse. Located, at what is now, Seventh and Magnolia Streets in “Old Louisville,” it was the first Louisville track to receive national recognition.
Churchill Downs: America’s Most Historic Racetrack by Kimberly Gatto
September 30, 1839, Oakland Race Course in Louisville held “the greatest race west of the Alleghenies,” between the pride of all Kentuckians, Grey Eagle, and the Louisiana horse, Wagner. The growing competition between the two thoroughbreds had developed into a rivalry between the two states. Oakland was struggling financially by 1839 when promoter and entrepreneur Yelverton C. Oliver arranged a match race offering a purse of $14,000. In those days, racecourses were three to five miles long and there was no starting gate, which did not appear until the following century. Horses often ran in two to three races a day, and this match was for the best two out of three four-mile heats, winner take all. Wagner took it all and Kentucky fans were not satisfied and wanted a rematch, which they got the next month.
On October 5, 1839, the second contest between Wagner and Grey Eagle took place at the Oakland Race Course in Louisville five days after the original race. The Jockey Club supplied the purse of $1,500 and an estimated 10,000 people (or more) were in attendance. Hundreds of racing enthusiasts made the long trek across the mountains from the Atlantic seaboard; among the noted aristocrats on this day was a contingent from Lexington, led by Henry Clay. Grey Eagle won the first heat; Wagner the second. The excitement was intense during the running of the third heat, but the race never finished. Grey Eagle gave way in the second mile and broken down. He never raced again.
September 11, 1844, the three day Crab Orchid meet, run over the Spring Hill Course, began near Crab Orchid, Kentucky. The weather was excellent and the attendance on each day was numerous. Day's one race had a proprietor's purse of $50 with an entry fee of $10 and for three-year-olds. It consisted of mile heats until a filly named Ann Bell came out on top. Day two races had a proprietor's purse of $100, free for all ages. These also were mile heats and a four-year-old mare named Lucy Webb was the day's winner. On day three, the big race had a proprietor's purse of $100, free for all ages. There were two two-mile heats, won by the hometown's favorite mare, Denmark.
American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine, Volume 15 Editor William T. Porter
In 1847, when the Mexican War broke out, New Orleans was the leading horse-racing center of the United States. The city boasted four tracks, three on the east side and another across the river. The race tracks were Metairie, Eclipse, Union and Bingaman. The newspapers gave about equal coverage to the doings at the tracks as to the war with Mexico.
March 17, 1850, Lexington was foaled within Lexington, Kentucky's current city limits on a farm called The Meadows. Dr. Elisha Warfield bred the great runner and sire. The Doctor was one of the most important early figures in Kentucky racing and a founder of the Kentucky Association Race Track. The Meadows and the Track bordered each other. Darley was the name Warfield had given to the bay colt by Boston out of his top race mare Alice Carneal.
In 1853, the Metairie Jockey Club was founded. This exclusive organization managed the Metairie track, among other responsibilities. The Jockey Club built a massive grandstand, and soon it became a shrine for the outstanding thoroughbreds of the day and a mecca for horsemen from all over the United States.
May 23, 1853, Darley, aka Lexington, ran his first race as a three-year-old in the Association Stakes at the Kentucky Association Race Track. The colt was leased to trainer Henry Brown, Dr. Warfield was retiring from racing. Despite having run over two miles before the official break, Darley led from flagfall to finish, as he did in the second heat, thus leaving a remarkable first impression. Richard Ten Broeck, later made an agreement on behalf of a syndicate to purchase the colt prior to the Citizens' Stakes run a few days before he purchased the colt. Little did they know he would become the most successful sire of the second half of the nineteenth century. He was the leading sire in North America 16 times. One of his progeny was Preakness, the namesake of the famous race at Pimlico.
April 1, 1854, “The Great State Post Stakes,” was run at the famous Metairie Course. The race would pit representatives of the states against each other. Designated parties would select one horse to fly their state’s flag, for a pricey $5,000 entry fee, in four-mile heats. This presented a twist on the North-South match-ups that had become a feature of the racing landscape. Regional rivalry was expressed on the track, just as sectionalism was rising in politics in the decades leading up to the Civil War. As it turned out, however, only four states competed in the Great State Post, none from the North. Three hailed from the Deep South, while the border Commonwealth of Kentucky furnished Lexington, whose name was changed, after private purchase, to highlight his affiliation. Lexington, like Lecomte, brought a perfect record into the Great State Post Stakes. Lecomte ended up representing Mississippi, with Arrow gaining the Louisiana spot, and Highlander was the hope of Alabama. Lexington won the stakes race.
April 8, 1854, Lecomte got his revenge and beat Lexington in a rematch.
April 2, 1855, Lexington, running against time, ran the four miles in 7.19:75, bettering Lecomte’s 7.23:25. It was as if Lexington had been stewing over his loss, and determined to reclaim his supremacy, he annihilated the record.
April 14, 1855, Tom Wells, the owner of Lecomte, challenged Lexington's owner in a head-to-head "rubber" match, for $20,000. This time there was no question; Lexington was declared the winner, with a time of 7:23 3/4. When it was all over, it was heard in the crowd, "Besides the $20,000 purse, there were surely some plantations that changed hands today." This was the last race for both horses. They both gave great enjoyment to many when they competed. Today, Lexington's skeleton is in the Smithsonian Institute. Also, a town located south of Alexandria is named in his honor, even though his name is misspelled – LECOMPTE.
May 21, 1860, Woodlawn Race Course Association, also known as "Saratoga of the West," held their first day of racing in Louisville. It was a track of significant importance during the 1860s. Organized competitive horse racing in Kentucky was relatively young when Woodlawn Race Course opened. Opening day in the track's second Spring meet was crowded. The "Courier" noted that "the attendance was very large, including many of our city and state dignitaries." It also mentioned that "the course was in splendid condition." A surviving remnant of Woodlawn Race Course is the trophy, the Woodlawn Vase. Kentuckian Robert Atchison Alexander, noted owner of Woodburn Farm, commissioned Tiffany and Company to craft the trophy, first presented at Woodlawn in 1861. During the Civil War, they buried the trophy on the racetrack grounds for safekeeping. It now serves as the model for half-size replicas given to the annual winner of the Preakness Stakes.
June 27, 1860, the Queen's Plate's inaugural running took place at the Carleton Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario. The prize of 50 guineas was awarded to Don Juan by Queen Victoria's blessing. It is the oldest continuously run race in North America.
August 3, 1863, was Saratoga's opening day. "Mr. Morrissey deserves great credit for the excellent manner in which the whole detail of his attractive entertainment is managed." So wrote an approving reporter on August 4, 1863, edition of the Daily Saratogian, following the first day of the inaugural racing meet in Saratoga Springs.
August 2, 1864, the United States' first modern sports facility, Saratoga Race Course, opened for a five-day summer meeting on today's grounds. The Travers Stakes holds the distinction of being the very first race ever run at the new Saratoga. Named after the Saratoga Association President, William R. Travers. The first edition of the race was won by his own horse Kentucky, co-owned with John Hunter and George Osgood.
In 1866, the Metairie track reopened after being closed for the duration of the Civil War. But it was not the same Metairie. The old Metairie Jockey Club had disintegrated, and reconstruction troubles and quarrels within the management ranks forced the owners to sell.
In 1866, Milton Sanford, a prominent racehorse owner and breeder, gave a lavish dinner party during the 1866 Saratoga meeting. In attendance was Oden Bowie, Governor of Maryland. The gentlemen decided, at dinner, that Bowie would build a track near Baltimore and a race called the Dinner Party Stakes would be run for three-year-olds. The track would come to be known as Pimlico.
September 25, 1866, Jerome Race Track opened and it marked the return of thoroughbred racing to New York after a Civil War hiatus. The appointments were lavish, with a large dining room, a magnificent ballroom, and clubhouse accommodations comparable to a luxury hotel. The grandstand held 2,500 seats. General Ulysses S. Grant was one of the attendees. Management barred gambling and liquor and the new track received great press. It rapidly surpassed Saratoga as the most important track in America. It became a model for first-class tracks in the next twenty years, including Monmouth, Churchill and the Bay Course in San Francisco. In 1867, the Belmont Stakes, one of the three major horse races that constitute the Triple Crown, was held at Jerome Park, and it remained there until 1890.
Thursday, June 19, 1867, Belmont Stakes debuted at Jerome Park Racetrack in Fordham, Westchester County, now part of the Bronx. In a four horse field, the only filly, Ruthless, won the inaugural event by a head over second-place DeCourcey. Instead of carrying 110 pounds like the other three horses, Ruthless only had to carry 107. The filly covered the 1 5/8M race in 3.05.00. Francis Morris, the owner of Ruthless, received $1,850 and an English riding saddle. She was the first of only three fillies to win the Belmont Stakes. The other two are Tanya (1905) and Rags to Riches (2007). The Belmont Stakes is the oldest Triple Crown race and the fourth oldest stakes races in North America, following the Phoenix Breeders’ Cup, originally the Phoenix Stakes, at Keeneland (1831); the Queen’s Plate in Canada (1860); and the Travers at Saratoga (1864). The Belmont Stakes was originally contested in a clockwise direction, similar to traditional European races. It wasn’t until 1921 that the race ran counter-clockwise, like most American races.
In 1868, the Ladies Handicap made its debut. It is the sixth-oldest stakes race in America and the oldest race exclusively for females. The race was run at Jerome Park in New York from 1868 to 1889 and at Morris Park from 1890 to 1904, before moving to the new Belmont Park the following year. Countless winners of this race have gone on to have stakes races named for them, including Firenze, Beldame, Maskette, Top Flight, Vagrancy and Next Move.
Wednesday, June 10, 1868, General Duke beat five others to win the 2nd Belmont Stakes. Lexington’s son covered the 1 5/8M race in 3.03.00.
July 30, 1870, the first Monmouth Park opens. Buoyed by the success of racing in New York, New Jersey businessmen built Monmouth Park near Long Branch. Over the next two decades, Monmouth Park had the highest attendance and purses of any track in the country. So successful was racing there, that another Monmouth Park was built several miles away. It opened in 1890 with the largest all-iron grandstand ever built. The track was 1 3/4M around with a 1 3/8M straightaway.
October 25, 1870, Pimlico Race Course opened and an impressive colt named Preakness, won the Dinner Party Stakes. Today, the race is known as the Dixie Handicap.
In 1872, a group of businessmen bought the Metairie Track. They converted the site into the Metairie Cemetery, which would, in time, become one of the great burial places in the United States.
In 1872, the Louisiana Jockey Club, a new group, took over the old Creole Race Course. The new club also bought the adjoining Luling Mansion on Esplanade to serve as a clubhouse, which is still standing today. The estate was impressive with its massive flower gardens and orchids. The organization built a new grandstand and started operations with a six-day inaugural meet in April 1872.
Tuesday, May 23, 1873, Pimlico Race Course ran the second race on the card named “The Preakness” for the first time at a distance of 1 1/2M. It was the brainchild of then Maryland Governor, Oden Bowie, a sportsman and an enterprising racing entrepreneur. His term ended in 1872, but in ’73, his filly, My Maryland, represented him in his world-class stakes race. Survivor won the first Preakness Stakes with a purse of just over $2,000. He won by ten lengths, which remained the largest margin of victory for over 100 years.
June 7, 1873, the 7th Belmont was run at a distance of 1 5/8M. The winner was Springbok. He beat nine others by four lengths to win $5,200. August Belmont had two entered.
Tuesday, May 26, 1874, Culpepper wins the 2nd Preakness. Net value to the winner $1,900. Culpepper went the 1 1/2M in 2:56.5.
May 27, 1874, the first public notice of establishment for the track that would become Churchill Downs was reported in the Courier-Journal. The announcement was met with objections because another track was already proposed by the Falls City Racing Association east of downtown Louisville.
Saturday, June 13, 1874, the 8th Belmont Stakes was won by Saxon, by a neck, to win $4,200. Belmont Park decided to change the distance 1 1/2M.
May 17, 1875, a four-year-old filly named Bonaventure won the first race ever run at a track that would later be known as Churchill Downs. Capt. William Cottrill, a Civil War Confederate officer, owned the filly. He never let sectionalism interfere with his love of racing. His Magnolia Farm bred and raced horses in both the North and South while earning deep admiration. In 1872, the Saratoga Association's leadership offered to name a race, the Cottrill Stakes, in his honor. Modest as always, the Southern gentleman declined and asked instead that the race be called the Alabama Stakes after his home state.
Monday, May 17, 1875, 10,000 lucky fans witnessed the first Kentucky Derby run on a track later known as Churchill Downs. It was also the first day of racing for this new track. The distance was 1 1/2M, run in 2:37.75. Aristides, a small colt roughly 15 hands, won by two lengths over 14 other contestants. 13 of the 15 jockeys were African American, including the winner Oliver Lewis. Ansel Williamson, who was born a slave, was the winning trainer. Hal Price McGrath, a native Kentuckian, owner of gambling parlors in NYC, owned and breed Aristides on his extravagant McGrathiana Farm, now known as UK’s Coldstream Farm. There were no roses for the winning connections, but Mr. McGrath did win $2,850.
Wednesday, May 19, 1875, the first Kentucky Oaks was run at the Louisville Jockey Club, later known as Churchill Downs. Vinaigrette won the then 1 1/2M race in 2:39¾, winning $1,175. The Oaks and the Derby are the oldest continuously contested sporting events in American history and the only horse races held at their original site since their conception.
Friday, May 28, 1875, Tom Ochiltree wins the 3rd Preakness. Owner J.F. Chamberlin won $1,900. L. Hughes guides home the winner over a slow track going 1 1/2M. Tom Ochiltree is by the grand sire Lexington.
Saturday, June 12, 1875, “Calvin” wins the 9th Belmont Stakes still at Jerome Park at 1 1/2M. Price McGrath, the winning owner and breeder, also owned the second-place finisher Aristides and the 4th place finisher Chesapeake. August Belmont entered had two entries.
September 15, 1875, Isaac Murphy’s won his first race. The win came at the Lexington Crab Orchard track, aboard B. F. Pettit’s chestnut filly Glentina (future winner of Louisville’s Jockey Club’s Colt & Filly Stakes). Crab Orchard, located 46 miles south of Lexington, was the oldest circular track in the state and was a testing ground for potential stake winning horses and the talented jockeys.
The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy By Pellom McDaniels III
Monday, May 15, 1876, Vagrant wins the second Kentucky Derby in 2:38 4/5, taking home $2,950. The field of 11 was away in good order for the 1 1/2M race. Parole broke in front with Bullion in closest pursuit. Vagrant came up on the outside and was in front after three-quarters, Parole having dropped back fourth. Creedmore moved up on the first turn but was two lengths back of the winner at the finish. Bullion had the misfortune of having a horse, believed to be Harry Hill run up on him rounding the clubhouse turn, striking his left hind foot and severing a tendon. He finished on three legs.
Tuesday, May 22, 1877, Kentucky bred Baden-Baden wins the third Kentucky Derby. Eleven went to post on a fast track. William “Billy” Walker an African American jockey born a slave, guided home the winner in 2:38 for the 1 1/2M. The winning owner Dan Swigert and winning trainer Edward D. Brown were also African American. The winning connections took home $3,300.
April 3, 1878, The New York Times published a small piece on a upcoming race:
“Col. M. Lewis Clark, Jr., President of the Louisville Jockey Club, has perfected arrangements by which Ten Broeck and Mollie McCarthy are to run four-mile heats at Louisville, July 4 next, for the sum of $10,000. Two or three other races will be given at the same time. The owner of Mollie McCarthy thinks she can beat any horse in the country. The mare will be brought from California to Louisville in Budd Doble’s car, which has been chartered for the round trip, and will probably arrive here about the first of May to prepare for the contest. Ten Broeck was never in better condition than at present.”
The press deemed the race a failure, but it did create much publicity for the new track. Matt Winn later described this race as the last of the great four-mile heat system races in America. This race was so famous that it inspired several folk songs, including what some say inspired the 1st bluegrass music recording “The Racehorse Song” by Bill Monore.
Tuesday, May 21, 1878, Kentucky bred, Day Star, wins the fourth Kentucky Derby against eight rivals. Time: :25 1/2, :49 3/4, 1:16 1/2, 1:45 3/4, 2:37 1/4 (Derby Record). Track dusty. $4,450 to the winner. Jimmy Carter up.
May 20, 1879, Lord Murphy won the 1 1/2M Kentucky Derby on a fast track. Lord Murphy was knocked almost to his knees by Ada Glenn on the first turn with a field of nine horses, but managed to pull himself up from 7th to 1st place at the mile marker to win over the fast-approaching Falsetto. Lord Murphy was originally named Patmus and was a grandson of Lexington. He was owned by Geo. W. Darden & Co., trained by George Rice, ridden by Charlie Shauer. He won the race in a record time of 2:37.00. Famed jockey Isaac Burns Murphy finished second.
June 28, 1879, Brighton Beach Race Course opened at Brighton Beach on Coney Island, NY., by the Brighton Beach Racing Association. Headed by real estate developer William A. Engeman, the 1M race track was located in back of his Brighton Beach Hotel.
June 19, 1880, the Sheepshead Bay Race Track opened for their first day of racing. A group of prominent businessmen built the racetrack from the New York City area and formed the Coney Island Jockey Club in 1879. Led by Leonard Jerome, the track’s President and William Kissam Vanderbilt, the Club held seasonal race cards at nearby Prospect Park Fairgrounds until the Coney Island Jockey Club site at Sheepshead Bay. Sheepshead Bay was probably the most prominent of the Brooklyn tracks and originated the Futurity and the Suburban. It also was unique in that it had the first turf course. When turf racing ended at Sheepshead Bay, it virtually stopped in America until a Hialeah in the 1930s.
Tuesday, May 18, 1880, Kentucky bred Fonso beats the smallest field, five, to win the 6th Kentucky Derby. The distance was 1 1/2M. Tice Hutsell gave G. Lewis a leg up. This Derby was the dustiest of all and some estimates had the dust at five inches deep. The chart call: FONSO broke in front and was never headed. After a quarter, it was FONSO, KIMBALL, BANCROFT and BOULEVARD with QUITO, which was left at the post, far back. QUITO moved into third position on the backstretch but had nothing left for the final drive. FONSO was a length in front of KIMBALL at the wire with BANCROFT three lengths back. A foul claim by the rider of KIMBALL against FONSO was not allowed. 47 nominations. Net to the winner; $3,800.
Tuesday, May 17, 1881, the 7th Kentucky Derby was won by Hindoo in a six horse field. The Dwyer Brothers took home $4,410. The distance continued to be 1 1/2M.
Friday, May 27, 1881, the 9th running of the Preakness Stakes was the first race on the card at a distance of 1 1/2M. Saunterer wins the $2,000 purse.
Tuesday, June 7, 1881, the favorite, Saunterer, wins the Belmont Stakes. G. Lorillanrd owner, won $3,000 for the 1 1/2M, in a winning time of 2:47.
Tuesday, May 16, 1882, Kentucky bred Apollo wins the 8th Kentucky Derby over 13 other starters, the largest field todate. An unnamed colt ran in the derby, so he ran with his sire’s name, Pat Malloy. Apollo was trained by Green B. Morris, bred in Kentucky by Daniel Swigert and ridden by B. Hurd. The winning owners, Morris & Patton, took home $4,560 fro winning the 1 1/2M test.
Wednesday, May 23, 1883, Leonatus wins the 9th Derby. The winner received a purse of $3,760. The name "Churchill Downs" is first used to landmark the racetrack, although the track's name is not officially called "Churchill Downs." Track officials postponed the Derby by one day because the track's surface was a sea of mud.
May 26, 1883, the 11th running of the Preakness Stakes was a match race. Jacobus won by four lengths over Parnell.
June 9, 1883, the Dwyer Brothers win the 17th running of the Belmont Stakes with George Kinney. He went 1 1/2M in 2:42 1/2.
July 9, 1883, Latonia Race Track opens in Convington. Isaac Murphy would go on to win five Latonia Derbies. The infield was so spectacular that it would often be referred to as “America’s most beautiful race track.” It would stay open for 56 years.
Friday, May 16, 1884, Buchanan wins the 10th Kentucky Derby. Isaac Burns Murphy wins his first Derby on his fourth try. Nine went to post on a “good” track, including Bob Miles, who beat the flag and jumped into a two-length lead at the start. The winning owners, Cottrill & Brown, took home $3,990.
Saturday, June 28, 1884, Washington Park in Chicago was greeted by a magnificent sunny afternoon for its inaugural day of racing. 40,000 fans packed the roads leading to the new track at 61st and Cottage Grove Avenues with four-in-hands, jog carts, tallyhos, sulkies, etc. Ten gaily attired buglers sounded "Boots and Saddles" in unison before each race. The third race that day featured an event that would quickly become one of the country's biggest, The American Derby. The American Derby rivaled the Travers Stakes as the premier event in America for three-year-olds. Both races at the time were far more prestigious than the Kentucky Derby.
May 14, 1886, Ben Ali won the 12th Kentucky Derby in a record-setting performance. This Derby was very controversial because James Ben Ali Haggin, the owner, could not place a large bet on his winning stallion. In 1886, C. M. White purchased the pooling privileges (wagering rights) for the Derby for $30,600 and demanded that all the Derby bookmakers pay him a $100 fee to operate at the track. The bookmakers refused to pay, so there were no bookies to handle high-dollar bets. News traveled fast on the east coast and other horse racing circuits of Haggin’s ill-treatment in Louisville, causing many horsemen to boycott the Kentucky Derby during the 1890s and early 20th century. Bookmakers returned for the 1887 Derby, but the damage was done. The field quality dropped and race profits reduced dramatically until Churchill Downs was facing closure and sold to a syndicate led by Matt Winn in 1903.
Wednesday, May 11, 1887, 17-year-old Kentucky bred Isaac E. Lewis rode the 13th Kentucky Derby winner, Montrose. Net to winning owner Labold brothers was $4,200.
Friday, May 18, 1887, Dunboyne wins the 15th Preakness Stakes beating three others. Winning owner w. Jennings nets $1,725.
Thursday, June 9, 1887, Hanover wins the Belmont Stakes match race against Oneko to win $2,900.
Friday, May 10, 1889, George “Spider” Anderson wins the 17th running of the Preakness aboard Buddhist in a match race against Japhet. Spider was the first African American jockey to win the famed race. Gross Value $1,380. Gross to Winner $1,180. Second $200.
August 20, 1889, Morris Race Track in Westchester County, New York, opened for their first racing day. African-American Racing Hall of Fame jockey Isaac Murphy rode on opening day at the new facility. Described as “the finest race track in the world,” the track was accessible by horse and buggy. The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad added a short spur from its mainline near the Van Nest station that brought racing fans directly to the new race track from the greater New York City area.
Tuesday, June 13, 1889, Jerome Park hosted the 1 1/2M, 23rd Belmont Stakes. It would be last year Jerome would host the race. Eric beats two others to win $4,960 in 2:47 1/4.
1890, so successful was racing in New Jersey, that a new Monmouth Park was built several miles away from the original track. It opened with the largest all-iron grandstand ever built. The track was 1 3/4M around with a 1 3/8M straightaway.
In 1890, the Kentucky Association faced financial problems and sold the track to a group of investors. Due to the poor economy, the track owners had difficulty attracting horses for important events.
April 1, 1890, Benning Racetrack, Washington, D.C. opened to the public. John Madden, “the Wizard of the Turf,” liked Benning, and brought as many as 36 horses at a time. “The meetings at Bennings race track are increasing in importance annually and the stakes here offered are well worth the attention of any owner,” said the Daily Racing Form in 1903. A Tennessee congressman carried a bill through Congress to prohibit racetrack gambling in Washington. A Kentuckian lectured Sims in a different hearing on moral reforms: “Your innocent little amendment to a road bill destroyed the Benning race track.” This anti-racing sentiment started in N.Y.spread across the U.S. Other tracks reopened once the laws lightened, but Benning never did. The last race was on April 12, 1908. The grandstand burned down in 1915.
Wednesday, May 14, 1890, Riley wins the 16th Kentucky Derby run at a distance of 1 1/2M.
Tuesday, June 10, 1890, Morris Park Racecourse hosted both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
The 18th consecutive running of the Preakness moved to New York. The New York Jockey Club would keep the distance at 1 1/2M. The race would not run again till 1894. The Preakness Stable owned the 4-5 favorite named Montague, who paid $10.40 to his backers. Gross value: $1,665.
The 24th Belmont Stakes was the first time Morris Park hosted the historic event. Burlington wins the 1 1/4M in 2:07.34. The purse was double from the previous year, $8,560 but would drop back to $5,070 in 1891.
June 25, 1890, Isaac Burns Murphy raced in the most memorable contest of his life. Matched against a white counterpart, jockey Ed “Snapper” Garrison, the race would settle the debate about which rider was the better jockey, in a match race that had definite racial overtones. Murphy was victorious in a race so close it is known to be one of the first “photo finishes” in horse racing history.
Wednesday, May 13, 1891, Kingman wins the 17th Kentucky Derby and takes home $4,550. Isaac Burns Murphy wins his last Derby for owner Jacobin Stables. Kingman covers the 1 1/2 in 2:52 ¼, the slowest Derby to date.
Wednesday, June 10, 1891, Foxford wins the 1 ¼ Belmont Stakes by a neck in 2:08 3/4. The value to the winner was $5.070. Garrison up, trained by M. Donavanand owned by C.E. Rand.
Wednesday, May 11, 1892, Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton rode Azra to victory in the 18th Kentucky Derby. Fifteen-year-old Lonnie became the youngest jockey ever to win the Derby. Clayton and Azra followed up their Derby success with victories in the Clark Handicap and the Travers Stakes. African American Jockeys won 15 of the first 28 Derbys.
Thursday, June 9, 1892, Patron beats Shellbark in a match race for the 26th Belmont Stakes.
The Preakness Stakes was not run in 1891, 1892 and 1893.
The 1893 World's Fair American Derby endured an hour and a half worth of false starts, mainly at the fault of the official starter Charles Pettingill. He attempted to start the race approximately 40 times. Starting a horse was an art during this era of no starting gates. Charles Pettingill also happened to be the starter for Man o' War's only loss to Upset, which he is to blame for a horrible start.
Man o' War: A Legend Like Lightning By Dorothy Ours
June 21, 1893, Aristides passed away after winning the first Kentucky Derby 18 years earlier. A chestnut thoroughbred with a white star and two hind stockings, Aristides was bred by Hal Price McGrath and foaled in 1872. Aristides raced 21 times with nine wins, five places, and one show. In 1988, the Aristides Stakes was inaugurated at Churchill Downs to honor him. A life-sized bronze statue of Aristides by Carl Regutti stands at Churchill Downs Clubhouse Gardens as a memorial.
1894, Monmouth Park officials, who built a new, lavish racecourse and grandstand in 1890, had badly misread New Jersey politicians' mood. Anti-gambling legislation shut down racing in the state after 1893, and it did not return for more than 50 years.
February 9, 1894, the American Jockey Club was incorporated in New York City by a group of prominent horsemen led by August Belmont II and Wall Street financier James R. Keene.
Tuesday, May 15, 1894, Chant wins the 20th Kentucky Derby. Due to the growing crowd size, a 285-foot grandstand was constructed to accommodate the growing number of race fans.
Thursday, May 19, 1894, the 19th Preakness makes its return at a new track and a new distance. The Brooklyn Jockey Club’s Gravesend Course hosted the 1 1/16M test. Assignee wins on a fast track in 1:491/4 at odds of 4-1. The colt by Spendthrift earned $1,830 for the Keene family.
Tuesday, June 19, 1894, Henry of Navarre beats two others to win the 28th Belmont Stakes. Willie Simms guided the winner home in 1:56 1/2 for the 1 1/8M distance. Owner B. McClelland won $6,680.
September 27, 1894, Aqueduct Racetrack opened on the property that belonged to the old Brooklyn Water Works, which was home to a conduit that brought water to New York City from the vast Hempstead Plain. Also known as the "Big A," Aqueduct is the only racetrack in New York City, occupying 210 acres in South Ozone Park, in the borough of Queens. It is located just eight miles from its sister track Belmont Park. Another Aqueduct neighbor is John F. Kennedy International Airport. Through the years, the Big A has been the scene of racing's landmark events, including the only triple dead heat in stakes history.
November 24, 1894, the articles of incorporation for the new Louisville Jockey Club were filed in the County Clerk’s office. The incorporators were Messrs. Emile Bourlier, Henry Wehmhoff and W.E. Applegate, each of whom held twenty shares valued at $100 per share, W.F. Schulte and C.J. Bollinger, fifteen shares, and M.S. Simonton, ten shares. The capital stock was fixed at 110,000.
In 1895 Simms became the first American jockey to win in England.
Monday, May 6, 1895, Lexingtonian Byron McClelland owned and trained the 21st winner of the Kentucky Derby. The race was contested at 1 1/2M. Halma won his connections $2,970. Churchill Downs president William F. Schulte constructed a new grandstand; complemented by two twin spires atop the roof on the opposite side of the track for a reported cost of $100,000.
May 25, 1895, the 20th Preakness was won by Belmar. He traveled 1 1/16M in 1:50 1/2.
November 2, 1895, Belmar won the 29th Belmont Stakes. The race was run so late in the year because the New York Jockey Club had closed operations. This Belmont was run under the jurisdiction of the Westchester Racing Association. The distance was 1 1/4M.
Wednesday, May 6, 1896, Ben Brush beat Ben Eder by a nose to win the 22nd Kentucky Derby. Net to the winner was $4,850. It was the first time it would be run at 1 1/4M, the distance today. The winning time was 2:07 3/4. Willie Simms was in the irons for his first of two Derby wins. He was the only African American jockey to win all three Triple Crown races.
Tuesday, June 2, 1896, Hastings, with Harry Griffin up, wins the 30th Belmont Stakes. August Belmont won a purse of $3,025. The 1 3/8M went in 2:24 1/5.
June 6, 1896, Heavy Favorite, Margrave gives five pounds to his three competitors to win the 21st Preakness Stakes. The 1 1/16M went in 1:51 on a fast track. Harry Griffin, from New York City, rode the winner.
May 12, 1897, Typhoon II beats five others to win the 23rd Kentucky Derby. Value of the race was $6,000, net to winner, $4,850.
May 29, 1897, Scottish Chieftain beats five others to win the $3,350. Winning jockey J. Scherrer was fined $50 for disobedience at the post.
Tuesday, June 8, 1897, Paul Kauvar wins the 22nd running of the Preakness Stakes in bad weather and a sloppy track. The colt was owned and trained by P.T. Hayes. McGrathiana Stud bred the winner.
Wednesday, May 4, 1898, Plaudit wins the 24th Kentucky Derby with Willie Simms up. This would be Willie's second and last Derby win.
Thursday, May 26, 1898, four go to post in the 1 3/8M, 32nd Belmont Stakes. Bowling Brook wins by eight over Previous, Hamburg, Gala Day , an added starter. Hamburg was eased at the last furlong. Value to the winner was $7,810.
Saturday, June 11, 1898, Sly Fox wins the 23rd Preakness Stakes. Willie Simms was the winning jockey. With this win, Willie became the only African American jockey to have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
Thursday, May 4, 1899, Manuel won the 25th Kentucky Derby.
Thursday, May 25, 1899, the 32nd Belmont Stakes winner, Jean Beraud, sets a new track record for the 1 3/8M mile in 2:23. Value to the winner was $9,680.
Tuesday, May 30, 1899, a three horse field went 1 1/16M for the 24th running of the Preakness Stakes.