I am a history buff. Not ancient history, but history of the last two hundred years or so. I was at Shaker Villiage at Pleasant Hill in Kentucky, and just walking on the same grounds as the Shakers years ago made me feel like I was on hollowed ground; it felt like I was amongst the Shakers. I've been to the Saratoga National Park where the battle was fought and I could hear the canyons blasting and the men battling.
What really gets me going are old racetracks. I could spend time on Google Earth trying to look up old racetracks just to see if you can see if remnants of the track remain, or if you could see the footprint of the oval itslef. Everytime I go to the track at Goshen, I drive by the old Good Time Park and imagine the horses that used to race over that kit-shaped oval (you can still see part of the track from Google Earth's pictures). When they redeveloped the old Garden State Park, I picture what new buildings are where certain part of the track was. What can I say, racing is my game and I like going back in time.
Amboy, Minnesota, native Del Insko began competing at Chicago tracks in the 1950s. Born on July 10, 1931, Insko drove in his first race on July 4, 1946, just six days before his 15th birthday. As North America's leading driver in 1960, Insko won 156 races and was named Driver of the Year. Some of his top mounts included Speedy Rodney, Henry T. Adios, Overcall, Merrie Gesture, and Land Grant (Author's collection.)
Steeplechasing was once a popular Chicago sport, held regularly at both Hawthorne Race Course and Arlington Park, but was phased out by the end of the 1950s. This photograph shows Hal Marbut , ridden by Crompton Smith, in one of the last steeplechase events ever held at Arlington Park, on June 4, 1958. (Authors collection.)
This cover of the Horseman and Fair World magazine, from December 30, 1959, depicts Horseman of the Year Joe O'Brien. Known as "Gentleman Joe," O'Brien was a top trainer-driver in his day. The Horseman, as it is known in harness racing circles, is the oldest weekly publication in North America devoted exclusively to Standardbred racing, having been established in 1877. (Author's collection.)
Aurora Downs reopened its doors on March 2, 1959, for a 72-day meeting on the newly rebuilt racing surface that also sported a half-mile training track. Here fans line up against the grandstand fence to watch as a field of eight pacers go behind the starting gate. (Courtesy of the Horseman and Fair World.)
Reprinted with permission from Chicago's Horse Racing Venues by Kimberly A Rinker. Available from the publisher online at www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling 888-313-2665.
Arcadia Publishing also has volumes about other racetracks, There is a volume about the Alameda County Fair where harness racing used to be competed at, Northfield Park, Pompano Park, as well as other thoroughbred tracks. There is also a volume on Goshen, New York but while harness racing is covered there, it is more about the town of Goshen itself. Of course, you can't talk about Goshen without mentioning harness racing. However, if you want a picture of Chicago Racing, Chicago's Horse Racing Venues is a must read.