Racing Through Time

Checking today’s feature race at Aqueduct, the Paumonok Handicap, I went to the NYRA stakes page, as is my wont, to get a little history on the race. Instead of the usual detailed information about the race and its origins, I found this: “There is some disagreement as to whether this race was named after a tribe of Indians familiar to Long Island, or for a Brooklyn Democratic Club. In any event, the race itself was run at Jamaica Racetrack, where for many years it enjoyed the feature spot on the opening day card” (NYRA).

Oh. Okay, either an Indian tribe, or a Brooklyn Democratic club. That makes sense.
I then did what any researcher worth her salt would do. I turned to Google.
Typing in “Paumonok,” I perused my results page, the fourth item of which was an article about Roamer and some handicapping by Walter Vosburgh. “Roamer?” I thought. Having just finished reading Landon Manning’s The Noble Animals, I knew that Roamer was a storied horse…from the early part of the twentienth century.

I clicked on the link, and arrived at this 1918 article from the New York Times, in which the nominations and assigned weights for that year’s Paumonok, run on opening day at the Jamaica racecourse, are reported by Andrew Miller. (Having a result from 1918 come up as the fourth result in a Google search for “Paumonok” sheds a little light on the murky origins of the race’s name.) The article notes that the weights were assigned by “Handicapper Walter S. Vosburgh.”

Fans of the Belmont Fall Championship Meet know that the esteemed Mr. Vosburgh has his own race named after him (this origin is a little easier to determine than that of the Paumonok, fortunately), so the next step in my Internet odyssey was the stakes page for the Vosburgh, where I learned that its namesake was the official handicapper for The Jockey Club and, from 1894 – 1934, for the New York racetracks. I also learned that Mr. Vosburgh assigned the weights for the first Experimental Free Handicap in 1933.

“The Experimental Free Handicap,” I thought. “Didn’t I just read about that?”
And, back on the Internet express, off I trotted to The Blood-Horse, where I indeed found this article on this year’s Experimental Free Handicap, in which Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Eclipse Award winners War Pass and Indian Blessing were assigned the highweights.
And there, dear readers, having traveled from today (the Paumonok) to 1918 (Roamer’s Paumonok), to 1940 (the first Vosburgh) to Thursday, January 24th, 2008 (the day the Experimental Free Handicap information was published), I ended my travels, two days before where I started.
Well, almost.
Curious as to how the gallant Roamer fared in that 1918 race, I tracked down the New York Times report of opening day, May 17, 1918. It appears that Roamer didn’t in fact run in that race, and that the favorite, Campfire (123), was beaten by Old Koenig (110). The article opens:

Racing on New York tracks for the season of 1918 was ushered in yesterday at
Jamaica by the Metropolitan Jockey Club, under conditions that augur well for a
successful campaign. There was no dense crowd to welcome the thoroughbreds
back to local competition, but the attendance was larger than a year ago, the
fields well filled with horses of fair class, and the crowd showed enthusiasm
over the three races in which the public choices came galloping home.

It would be nice to think that on April 30th, 2008, opening day of the Belmont spring meet, the New York Times would include such favorable coverage in its sports pages. Certainly, that is unlikely, and given the current state of affairs, who knows whether the paper will even have anything to cover.

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3 thoughts on “Racing Through Time

  1. Great stuff! New York racing has the most history in our sport than any other circuit. Who would have thought a mid-winter stake at Aqueduct would date back so far, and even more so, be mentioned in the New York Times. I enjoyed this.Feel free to post your top posts over at the new Racing Dispatch. I did this one today because I really enjoyed it!

  2. The history of New York racing is one of the facets that makes this sport so intriguing. Some people just get it and other never will. For me I can never get enough. The history of the Paumonok is yet another example. All the while I thought this race was named for the housing projects on Kisenna Blvd in Flushing.

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