Eugene Wood’s Legacy, Alive (Literally) and Well at Aqueduct

Image: Postcards from Eugene Wood to the nieces he supported following the death of their mother, his sister.

When Eugene D. Wood died in 1924, his local paper –The New York Times – didn’t pay that much attention. Despite his prominence in New York City, through decades of political involvement locally and in Albany, through his founding of Jamaica Race Course as part of the Metropolitan Jockey Club, Wood didn’t get the star treatment at his death that so many of his peers did. No elaborate obituary for him; The Times offered up a respectful, if brief, account, one that skipped over nearly everything of significance in a tantalizingly interesting life.

But if local scribes failed to memorialize Wood, the Metropolitan Jockey Club was guilty of no such oversight, immediately instituting the Wood Stakes at the behest of Wood’s widow Kate, who inherited his leadership positions in horse racing. It was run for the first time at Jamaica (Wood was the track’s first president) on May 2, 1925. Renamed not long after its inception, the Wood Memorial’s true historical value lies not only in honoring Wood, but also in annually bringing together dozens of his descendants, spanning multiple generations.

Like John Morrissey, the politician and founder of Saratoga Race Course, Wood was the child of Irish immigrants. Like Morrissey (for whom Wood worked as secretary), as an adult, he was enmeshed in the worlds of politics, especially Tammany Hall, and horse racing. And like Morrissey, he presented an ethically flexible public persona that belied a personal generosity and responsibility to those close to him.

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