The Friday feature at Brooklyn Backstretch is generally devoted to New York racing’s past, but today we’re looking south, to the great racing state of Maryland as Laurel Park celebrates 100 years of racing.
For five years in the early 90’s, I lived in Maryland, just north of Baltimore, smack dab in the middle of horse country, blissfully unaware of and uninterested in the history available at my doorstep. In those years in which I paid no attention to racing, I never set foot at Pimlico Race Course or Laurel Park, or in the stables on the grounds of the school at which I taught. As the kids say today, “Oops.”
Racing began at Laurel Park on October 2, 1911, as part of the Laurel Four Corners County Fair; the track’s birthday party takes place tomorrow with a Birthday Bash and Fall Fest from 12 to 6 pm. Part of the celebration is the 82nd running of the Selima Stakes, which was inaugurated in 1926 and is Laurel’s oldest stakes race. Sixteen Selima winners have gone on to be champion two-year-old filly; the winners include Busher, Bed O’Roses, Moccasin, Shuvee, and Mom’s Command. The first winner of the race was Fair Star.
Selima herself was imported to Maryland in the 18th century to become a foundation mare at Belair Stud Farm, then the property of Benjamin Tasker, Jr. Belair would later be the center of breeding and racing operations for William Woodward (photos of Belair here).
Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said in a press release, “We want the community to know how much we appreciate them,” and thus drawings will be held for flat screen televisions, iPads, and Baltimore Ravens tickets. The MJC will also donate money to local elementary schools. Brock Bridge Elementary School and Maryland City Elementary School will each receive a $200 donation; an additional $2,400 is up for grabs if jockeys Erick Rodriguez, Sarah Rook, Luis Garcia, Malcolm Franklin, Forest Boyce, Xavier Perez, Horacio Karamanos, and Ryan Fogelsonger finish in the top three in designated races.
The MJC will offer plenty of activities for kids at the celebration, including face painters and an equine village with Pony Club performers, pony riders, and a petting zoo.
In another fan-friendly gesture, fans in attendance on the opening Saturday of the fall meet got a complimentary mug that they can fill with $2 beer every Saturday through December 17.
A list of significant historical racing events at Laurel is featured on the track’s website; short video features on Maryland racing, including the Laurel Futurity, the D.C. International, Xtra Heat, and King Leatherbury, are on YouTube. The videos include historical photos and video footage, including interviews with contemporary and historical racing figures.
Here, Fort Marcy wins the 1967 D.C. International.
I’ve been to Laurel only once, more than three years ago, and I enjoyed every minute of it. You can read about my visit here.
Belmont will feature two Grade 3 stakes races, the Athenia and the Knickerbocker, and that’s where I’ll be spending my day. But it looks like Laurel’s got a great day on tap…a very happy birthday to them!
Laurel Park program provided by Ron Micetic, for whose generosity I am very grateful.