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Venerable venues

Venerable venues
Friday, May 09, 2014 - by Tim Bojarski

Every day, followers of harness racing watch and wager on a multitude of races across the land with few ever giving thought to the sites at which they are held. If any mention is given to the tracks themselves, it is usually the newer ones because they have been trending in the media.

The Red Mile, Freehold Raceway and Yonkers Raceway are the "operating patriarchs of the sport."
The New Meadowlands, Miami Valley Raceway and Dayton Raceway are the new kids on the block and all have garnered their share of attention. But what about the old stalwarts that have hosted our sport through the ages and continue to provide memorable contests today? Can you name the three oldest harness racing tracks in the U.S. that annually conduct extended pari-mutuel meets?

If you said Goshen, you're wrong because they do not offer wagering. They are to oldest track for sure, but for this example do not qualify.

So to answer the question in order of age, The Red Mile, Freehold Raceway and Yonkers Raceway are the operating patriarchs of the sport.

The Red Mile in Lexington, Ky., opened on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1875, hosting the "Great Fall Trots" sponsored by the Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders Association. It was the same year the first Kentucky derby was held and a decade removed from the Civil War. Through a succession of grandstands and innumerable legends, The Red Mile is entering its 139th year of racing.

Freehold Raceway was originally built in 1877 on 20 acres of land purchased for $3,000, with the construction of the half-mile track and grandstand adding an additional cost of $1,650. It has always been a half-mile configuration and with the exception of holding Thoroughbred races in 1921, has continually hosted harness racing throughout its history. It has always been, and continues to be, an "afternoon delight" for harness racing fans for the last 137 years.

Yonkers Raceway was founded in 1899 as the Empire City Trotting Club. Through the years the site has hosted trotters, Thoroughbreds and auto racing, but the track was converted to accommodate harness racing fulltime in the late 1940s. Known as "the giant of trotting" in the New York area, Yonkers Raceway turns 125 years old this year.

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