05/30/2013 11:48AM

History challenge: A century of racing's return to New York

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Daily Racing Form
A diagram of Belmont Park’s tracks as published in Daily Racing Form in June 1913, when racing returned to New York after an absence of 33 months.

Thursday is the 100th anniversary of the day racing returned to New York after an absence of two years and nine months.On Friday, May 30, 1913, an estimated crowd of 35,000 at Belmont Park hailed the return of the sport and a strange form of oral betting that would remain in effect for more than 20 years.

Since closing day of the Saratoga meeting on Aug. 31, 1910, the doors of all New York tracks had been shuttered, except for the occasional non-betting steeplechase meeting put on by the United Hunts Association.

The Empire State was the last in a long line that had come before it. In 1897, more than 300 racetracks were in operation in the United States. By the end of 1910, only a dozen or so tracks were operating.

Because of a progressive movement that blossomed in the 1890's, wherein middle-class and rural men and women crusaded against alcohol, pornography, prostitution, and gambling, wagering was wiped out in such major racing states as New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Texas, California, and Washington. That left only Maryland and Kentucky with legal gambling on horses, along with a few minor tracks and county fairs.

Slowly, states would see the return of racing. On Jan. 1, 1915, what Daily Racing Form described as an "enthusiastic, record-breaking crowd" swamped Fair Grounds for the return of legal racing in Louisiana, after an absence of eight years.

Test your knowledge of racing in New York 100 years ago.

1. The genesis for the shuttering of racing in New York came in 1887, when the state legislature passed the Ives Pool Law, which made betting legal only on the grounds of a racetrack. This caused pool rooms and gaming houses to join anti-gambling zealots -- strange bedfellows -- in fighting the tracks.

Over the next two decades, a series of laws were passed tightening the screws on racetracks, which won enough victories in state courts to keep the sport operating, however tenuously.
A year after Charles Evans Hughes (later Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court) was elected governor, he joined the anti-gambling crusade in 1908. The culmination of that struggle was the 1910 Agnew-Perkins Law, which made track officers and directors subject to arrest and conviction if betting took place on their property. Tracks had no alternative but to close. What happened to bring racing back to New York in 1913?

2. From the opening of the first formal racecourse in America on Long Island in 1665, New York has been a major center for the sport of racing. And from the time when the sport was organized following the Civil War, New York has played host to many of the richest and most important stakes races and a vast majority of champion racehorses.

In the years leading up to the closing of all racing in New York in 1910, eight major racecourses were in operation in the Empire State, presenting numerous important stakes fixtures -- most of which are still being contested today. Name the eight racetracks.

3. By the turn of the 20th century, it was apparent that American racing was in trouble everywhere. Many of the best jockeys, including future Hall of Fame inductees Danny Maher, John Reiff, and Tod Sloan, took their careers to England and France.

Owners and breeders were soon moving their best racing and breeding stock overseas, and in some cases, to Canada, where racing was prospering because of America's decline. Prices for racehorses, stallions, and broodmares plummeted to record lows. Foal registration in the United States dropped from 3,476 in 1900 to 1,950 in 1910.

A future Hall of Fame member, who had been shipped to England to race, made opening day of the return of racing to New York a very special one. Name the colt.

4. Racing is known as the "Sport of Kings," and at the beginning of the 1900's, that meant the kings of England to the British.

They were able to put up with the occasional success by an American-bred horse owned by a prominent and wealthy American, but when the floodgate was opened and Britain was being overrun by U.S. owners and horses winning its most prestigious races, something had to give.
Finally, when New York shut down and owners began leaving their horses in England to breed, that was the final straw. In 1913, the powerful English Jockey Club passed an act that had long-lasting repercussions. Name the act.

5. For today's followers of racing who still believe the folklore that the word "upset" originated from the name of the only horse to beat Man o' War, the headline in the June 14, 1913, Daily Racing Form read, "Upset in the Belmont." This was four years before Upset and Man o' War were foaled. The term upset to denote a surprise outcome can be traced in newspapers well back into the 1800's.

The story and the accompanying chart go on to explain how the odds-on favorite in the Belmont Stakes was poorly ridden and clearly the best when beaten by a horse who he had easily handled twice previously.

On the same page was a diagram of the "numerous tracks" at Belmont Park, showing a very odd path that horses in the Belmont Stakes traveled.

Who won the 1913 Belmont Stakes and what course did he follow to win that race?

Find the answers HERE.