Horse racing is an undeniably British sport. Whilst this exhilarating spectacle is performed in countries across the globe, from South Africa to Hong Kong to Australia, it is in the UK that both the sport's successful history and promising future firmly remain. Therefore, it is unsurprising, that the most famous of horse racing's venues exist within British boarders – with influential racecourses such as Aintree, Cheltenham and Wolverhampton bringing in millions of spectators each year from around the world. Considering this it is understandable that at this time of year, with Cheltenham odds just being released to thrill-hungry betting fans, it is easy to forget that the US also has a long and varied history of horse-racing – with a plethora of longstanding, successful and internationally famous venues to match. So, for those international horse racing fans who are, perhaps, unaware of the depth and breadth of the sport within the US, here are the two oldest tracks in America.
Freehold Raceway (Freehold Borough, New Jersey, 1839)
Despite steadily approaching its third century, the oldest harness racing track in the USA still hosts eleven races on Tuesdays and Sundays from August through May every year. This half-mile racetrack has been the home of The Monmouth County Agricultural Society since December 17th 1853, which has hosted an annual harness racing fair at the venue since 1854. However, this is not the biggest event held at the Freehold Raceway with that honour going to the Cane Pace, which has been hosted since 1955. This event, in combination with the Little Brown Jug and Messenger Stakes, creates the first leg of the prestigious Triple Crown of Harness Racing of Pacers.
Despite its long and successful history, the Freehold Raceway has not been without its fair share of tragedies and set-backs. An electrical fire in 1984 destroyed the main building, which led events to be held under tents until the completion of a new building in 1985. Despite these issues, the venue has become somewhat of a centre point for the agricultural community of the area, with several stables and breeders located within its vicinity. Moreover, the racecourse has become integrated within the Freehold Borough community over the years, with various buildings being themed around this historic venue. For example, in 1990, the Freehold Raceway Mall was opened which was decorated exclusively with harness racing motifs.
Fair Grounds Race Course consists of a mile-long dirt track flanked by a traditional grandstand and clubhouse. The venue is not just loved by hardcore horse racing fans either. It has also become popular with families due to its annual 'Thanksgiving at the track' event, which brings in thousands of vistors each year. Although the venue is now a longstanding institution within New Orleans, this was not always the case. The venue has gone through a series of owners and names during its long and sometimes troubled history. Originally opened as the 'Union Race Course' in 1852, the track was already closed by 1857 due to the opening of the nearby Metairie Course. However, in 1859, the track was reopened as the Creole Race Course and gained popularity due to its continuation of events through the events of the American Civil War. Another brief closure followed in 1871, but this was soon reversed with the founding of the Louisiana Jockey Club. Since then, Fair Grounds Race Course has remained open with a series of events being hosted there. Moreover, various additions and new constructions have been added to the existing race course, with a $27 million dollar project – involving building a new grandstand and clubhouse – commencing in 1994. Sadly, the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to the venue, which took over a year to rectify in 2004. However, since its reopening in 2006, Fair Grounds Race Course has consistently entertained both old and young alike with the local community.Tags: Fair Grounds Race Course, London, London 2012, Louisiana, Olympics, Summer Olympics