LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
In Sunday's TDN, we published Bill Finley's ode to shuttered racetracks, and asked others to try to beat his number of 28 at which he had attended live racing. Here are a few of the letters we received about the piece.
What a wonderful and moving article from Bill Finley on defunct racetracks. I have no claim to even being close to Bill's record and certainly not to his great memories. When I was about 10 years old, I remember my folks taking us to Hialeah (about 68 years ago!). I don't remember much, but the photo in the article jogged my memory about palm trees.
We had moved back to northern New York state when I was around 15 years old and my grandfather took me to the Franklin County Fair in Malone, NY, to see the harness horses. I am not sure if that track is still there or not–probably not. I do recall other local fair sites, most gone. I have loved horse racing to this day.
I was hoping Bill would include a listing of all the closed tracks, location, years in operation, etc. Is there a link to such a list?
Kudos to Bill for his great article.
–Patrick M. Premo
Editor's note: We used this list from Wikipedia as a base, but discovered that it is far from complete.
I wanted to say thank you for today's article about defunct tracks. No, I'm nowhere near 28.
But, like Bill, Suffolk was a tough loss. I attended both closing days, 2014 & 2019. On the final one in 2019, I walked the track for an hour trying to come to grips with it. I still stop by to grab a Racing Form when I'm In Boston, no less hard. I have pictures from a dark night back in January.
Anyway. Scarborough Downs, short-term flat track in the 50s is set for their final harness race on 11/26. Things are bad there. There are hopes of redeveloping Cumberland Raceway for harness racing. However, Scarborough is the last New England outpost with Thoroughbred lines.
I too majored in thoroughbred horse racing in college. As a resident of Winthrop, MA, I spent many a day–and night–at Suffolk Downs. To this day you can see the shoulders of the harness racing track fading away inside the current mile track. I do remember night harness racing there. Jump the fence and bet two dollars on the favorite!
When I went to college, it was at St Francis College (now the University of New England) in Biddeford, Maine. Right down the street from Scarborough Downs–how convenient! They had both flats and harness racing. We spent every night there. Just wanted to bring back another fond memory of my misspent youth! Remember the doubleheaders at Rockingham Park on Labor Day?
Thanks for the memory!
–Frank Buckley, Winthrop, MA
I can't beat the number of tracks that Bill has been to that have closed, but I can add a couple of New England tracks–Narragansett and Lincoln Downs in Rhode Island, also Tropical Park in Florida. Some of the tracks listed in the article brought back some fine memories. It's a shame that many of these tracks are gone, but I'm not sure the economics of the times would be good for the quality of racing if they were all still around.
-Gary Denn, Guilderland, NY
I just read your piece on lost tracks, and realized your days at Suffolk Downs probably coincided with mine. I have been a steward there since 2000, but since 1976 I bred, raised and raced my own horses. In fact, I just put out a book which is an account of each one, from birth to the track and beyond called “Chain of Foals.” You'd probably recognize lots of names in there! Anyway, I'm still suffering from Suffolk-shock; the grandstand is still there, and I keep thinking I should visit one more time, go up to the roof, look at that wonderful view…sigh! What a wonderful place it was, and wonderful people, now scattered all over the racing world. Anyway, I enjoyed your article; you might enjoy the memories in my book!