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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: Chicago's Horse Racing Venues

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.

Perhaps it is coincidence, perhaps just timing, but as Illinos' racing industry goes through turmoil, I have been reading the book Chicago's Horse Racing Venues, part of the Images of America series of Arcadia Publishing.  I always find books of history based on archival photos to be interesting as it takes you back in time as if you were there.  What makes this particular book interesting is the number of racetracks Chicago has had over the years, with multiple tracks operating in the same year; some literally built next door to each other.  When you read this book, you will realize Chicago, IL was the capital of racetracks of thoroughbreds and standardbreds.  Through this book you will learn of the many tracks that were open at one time or another in Chicago (sometimes how they closed due to 'misfortune' (Hey it was Chicago in the 1920s).  You will also see how racing has changed over the years.

The book covers both standardbred and thoroughbred racing so fans of both breeds will enjoy this book as you take a trip down memory lane.  Harness fans will see a picture of a horse with a single-shaft sulky; pictures of Aurora Downs, Balmoral Park, Hawthorne, Maywood Park, Sportsman's Park, Washington Park.  Thoroughbred fans will see how races were started in the 1890's and pictures of Arlington Park, Hawthorne, Lincoln Fields, and Sportsman's Park.  Did you know the late Sportsman's Park was the original Hawthorne Kennel Club?  Did you know thoroughreds once raced over a half mile oval at Sportsman's Park?  Whether you are a racing fan, long time participant in racing or just a history buff, you will find Chicago's Horse Racing Venues a quick, but interesting read.

Just to give you a feel of this book, I would like to give you a sample of the book so you can see what it is like..  I am sure you will find them interesting.  Please note the following four photo and text segments are copyrighted and used with the permission of the publisher.  Reprinted with permission from Chicago's Horse Racing Venues by Kimberly A Rinker. Available from the publisher online at or by calling 888-313-2665.

Reprinted with permission from Chicago's Horse Racing Venues by Kimberly A Rinker. Available from the publisher online at 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.

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