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70 years of Roosevelt Raceway
Thursday, September 02, 2010 - by T.J. Burkett

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Ed. Note: Sept. 2 is the 70th anniversary of the opening of Roosevelt Raceway. To mark this occassion, Fred Hudson of www.rrtrotting.com shares some facts and figures from that historic night:

Seventy years ago on Sept. 2, 1940, Roosevelt Raceway opened its gates for its first racing meet over the than newly built half-mile oval track.

First night attendance was 5,000 spectators who bet $40,742. on the eight-race card. The track's percentage that night was 10 percent or $4,074.20; and the State received 5 percent or $2,037.10 with the breakage being divided equally among the track and the State each receiving $344.75.

Of the 5,000 spectators most of them came from nearby towns of Long Island with less than 300 of them using the special trains from New York and Brooklyn that were provided for them. Nighttime racing and having pari-mutuel wagering on harness racing at Roosevelt Raceway was the brainchild of the founder, George Morton Levy.
 
At that time the paddock was at the end of the first turn and it was open to the fans. Spectators were allowed to enter the paddock and be among the horses that were there. Other innovations included 102 pari-mutuel windows, the McNamara starting gate, the finish camera, and a program that provided past performances.

The track also provided shadow rolls for horses that might shy away from shadows.
 
The first race was a mile trot with a purse of $250, that was won by Martha Lee driven by John (Red) Hanafin paying $4.40 to win. Of the eight races contested that night one was at a distance of one mile, three were at a distance of three-quarters of a mile, two were at the distance of 1-1/16 miles, and the featured race was staged in two heats!

Unfortunately, 22 years ago on the night of June 15, 1988, Roosevelt Raceway staged its last race.

Editor's Note: The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.


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The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.


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