If you were paying attention to racing a hundred years ago this month, some things would look familiar: racing in New York shifted from Aqueduct to Belmont; the Metropolitan Handicap was run at Belmont Park; a former racehorse met a sad end in his post-racing life.
The details, of course, were different. Aqueduct ran its last card on Thursday, May 12th, and the very next day, Belmont Park opened. No dark days of transition back in 1910; one day the starting gate opened in Ozone Park, and the next in Elmont.
Familiar, though, will be the churlish condescension directed towards Aqueduct, with snooty accolades reserved for its more respected neighbor. Of Aqueduct on its last day of racing the New York Times reported:
The track was in excellent shape, the weather fair, and the attendance good, but it was just on the eve of the opening at Belmont Park, with the running of the Metropolitan Handicap to-day as a coming event so far overshadowing the cheaper class of racing at the Queens County course that the sport was of a perfunctory character. (“Racing at Aqueduct”)
Even a hundred years ago, they couldn’t resist a cheap shot at the Big A.
Witness in contrast, the next day’s report from Belmont, referred to as “the most magnificent race course in America”:
With an opening so auspicious that the “hoodoo” of Friday the 13th sneaked away into hiding, real high-class racing began at the mammoth Belmont Park course yesterday, and brilliant sport, delightful weather, and a handsome and fashionable patronage made up about the most satisfying day’s sport that the Westchester Racing Association ever has furnished. (“Fashion Plate”)
Journalistic snobbery wasn’t limited to the racetracks; apparently, it was also the writer’s responsibility to voice an opinion on the quality of the fields. This writer, commenting on the small field assembled for the Metropolitan Handicap (nothing new there, right? Oh, except that this small field is…11 horses), expresses gratitude that the low-budget entrants stayed away:
The field for the Metropolitan is not as large as was expected a week ago, but it is the better for that, as the high quality of the horses engaged quite explains the absence of moderate class horses, which simply would be in the way to multiply the chances for accidents and interference should they go to the post. (“Racing at Aqueduct”)
The great Maskette was one of the “few” who had entered. She counted among her victories the Spinaway, the Matron, the Futurity, the Ladies, the Gazelle, and the Alabama; she was second in the Sheepshead Bay and the Aqueduct Handicap. She was undefeated against her own sex and off the board only twice in 17 starts; one of those off-the-board finishes came in this Met Mile, in which she finished sixth. She was the top weight and second betting choice, and the Times seemed to think that perhaps, her bad finish was due to jockey error.
…Maskette [took] third place close up, and [was] nicely placed by [jockey] Butwell for the first quarter of a mile, after which Butwell hurried her on injudiciously. The move may not have injured the great filly’s chance, but she got closer to the front on the turn than was necessary for a mare of her quality so long a stretch to run through. (“Fashion Plate“)
Another jockey humbled by the Belmont strip.
While both the Times and the Daily Racing Form noted that the newly-wedded August Belmont and his wife attended opening day, only the Form reported on Ace High, a horse that had “raced well” on the New York circuit. Indeed, a quick New York Times search reveals a couple of wins for Ace High, in 1906 and 1907. In an all too familiar story, though, when Ace High’s racing days were over, he came to a rather ignominious end:
Ace High, a horse that raced well on the metropolitan tracks several years ago in the color of T.D Sullivan, was killed in a runaway accident in New York City Thursday. Of late he had been drawing a fish peddler’s wagon about the streets of the metropolis. He was by Troubadour-Run of Luck.” (“Notes of the Turf”)
A Run of Luck that, unfortunately, came to an end on a New York City street.
“Fashion Plate Wins Metropolitan.” New York Times. May 14, 1910.
“Notes of the Turf.” Daily Racing Form. May 14, 1910
“Racing at Aqueduct.” New York Times. May 13, 1910.