Happy Fourth of July!
Across the country, we will spend today grilling; watching baseball; drinking beer; going to the beach; sitting in traffic; watching fireworks. Some of us will be working; some might make it to the racetrack. We’ll see friends and family. If you live in New York, you’ll enjoy the blissful emptiness and quiet of the city, and if you’re lucky, head to a rooftop to catch the East River fireworks. If you’re an NPR fan, you’ll listen with pleasure to Morning Edition’s annual broadcast of a reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Few of us will open our morning newspapers to read about horse racing, but that was, fortunately, not ever thus, and in my own little nod to history, I present racing headlines from The New York Times from 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago. Some of these articles require payment or a Times subscription to view them.
July 4, 1908: In a Captain Renault moment, a New York Times headline declares, “Bets Continue, Says Elder. Attorney Declares Club Officials Know It—Stops Oral Betting.”
Acting Assistant District Attorney Robert H. Elder of Kings County declared
yesterday that he had obtained evidence that bookmakers were still paying for
the privilege of carrying on a betting business at the Sheepshead Bay race
Deputy Police Commissioner Baker seems to have been so shocked—shocked!—by the discovery that he declared that he “would send men to the track every day” and continue to make arrests for violations of the law. Gee, what do you have to do to get that gig?
In better racing news, Monfort won the Thistle at Sheepshead Bay the previous day, though the first race, not the feature, seems to have been the most interesting:
The opening race furnished a peculiar contest, with the two choices, Selectman
and Connaught Ranger, and their jockeys so busy trying to beat each other that
between them they virtually made the race a present to the Whitney starter, Sea
Cliff. Notter, who rode Selectman, and J. Lee, on Connaught Rangers, have
been carrying on a little feud of their own, and Lee took the occasion to carry
out Notter’s mount in retaliation for interference that Notter on Helmet caused
to Lee’s mount, Fayette, in the Great Trial Stakes.
No mention of any disqualification or action by the stewards.
July 4, 1933: Independence Day 75 years ago featured the Brooklyn Handicap at Aqueduct, with Blenheim seeking his second consecutive victory. He would be denied in his attempt by stablemate Dark Secret. The race was run that year at a mile and an eighth, and apparently the paltry purse of $3,380 wasn’t enough for eventual handicap champion and horse of the year Equipoise, who headed to Arlington to run in the Stars and Stripes, a race that he had won the previous year, but in which he was unplaced in 1933. Maybe he should have stayed in New York?
July 4, 1958: Not much going on in racing news this year, aside from one disapproving letter to the editor from an Americo Nazzaro, from Brooklyn, written in response to an article published on June 18th; that article was titled: “Children’s Admission to Tracks Wins Approval of Commission.” New York State tracks had been, for seventeen years, denying children admission to the tracks, but this changed in 1958, when NYRA president John Hanes explained that
…the change had been made not to increase revenues but to make racing “a family
“I cannot think of a finer place to spend a picnic with the children than at beautiful Belmont Park,” he commented.
Mr. Nazzaro strongly disagreed:
I have yet to see a “family picnic at beautiful Belmont Race Track”…Encouraging
minors to gamble, permitted by law, is the antithesis of abating the growth of
juvenile delinquency….If the people of New York are gullible enough to be taken
in with the ruse that children are admitted to a race track so that the whole
family could enjoy a “picnic,” the solution of juvenile delinquency is far
beyond our reach.
Sue Broux at Post Parade, I hope that you consider this the next time you take your children to the races…
July 4, 1983: Twenty-five years ago, we are on familiar turf, with an article written by Steven Crist about Hush Dear’s victory in the Tidal Handicap. The theme? A mare beating colts and geldings.
Belmont Park has seemed downright European on recent weekends and not because of the charm of the place or the manners of its customers. In Europe, fillies and
mares run and win consistently against males. Now, that seems to be happening in
big races at Belmont.
Crist goes on to mention Sabin’s victory in the Saranac and Gold Beauty’s win in the Truth North before detailing Hush Dear’s victory under Jean-Luc Samyn, who described his mount as “just outstanding,” and indeed she was, winning the Diana in both 1982 and 1983.
Here in New York, there will likely be not a word about racing in this morning’s Times, though our turf writers at the Post and the Daily News will be on the job, as always. Regardless of how or where you spend your holiday, a safe and happy day to all…