Colorful History of Belmont Park: Track Was Named for First American Jockey Club Head; Westchester Racing Association Founded in 1895, With Meetings Conducted at Morris Park Nine Years; Latter Abandoned With Opening of the Elmont Course in 1905, Daily Racing Form, 1948-06-12


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BELMONT PARK VISTA Each year the term Belmont the Beautiful becomes more and more descriptive of one of Americas outstanding race courses This spring a new scene of arresting beauty greeted the eyes of visitors Opposite the automobile entrance to the clubhouse are the circular and oblong pools that are arepictured pictured above AUGUST BELMONT MEMORIAL CUP The winners share of the 100000 added purse is not the only reward that accrues to the owner of the victor in the classic Belmont Stakes Emblematic of victory are two trophies The ornate Augustus Belmont Memorial Cup is held by the winning owner until the next re ¬ newal of the event when it is returned to competition The Westchester Racing Association presents the winning owner with an additional trophy which remains remainshis his property Colorful History of Belmont Park Track Was Named for First American Jockey Club Head HeadWestchester Westchester Racing Association Founded in 1895 With Meetings Conducted at Morris Park Nine Years Latter Abandoned With Opening of the Elmont Course in 1905 By BOB HORWOQD HORWOQDBELMONT BELMONT PARK Elmont L I N Y June 11 It is no stretch of the imagina ¬ tion to say that Belmont Park for which the Westchester Racing Association stands sponsor is the most magnificent race course hi the world worldThat That sentence was written 43 years ago by John and F S Goodwin publishers of the Official Turf Guide and is the be ¬ ginning of an introduction to the Long Island track that covers four large pages in the 136page souvenir volume issued be ¬ fore the gates built by Anchor Post Iron Works were opened on the afternoon of May 4 1905 1905The The Goodwin brothers could not be accused of exaggeration when that state ¬ ment was written and the coming of all the splendid tracks in the last 25 years has not taken any ofthe lustre from Belmont Park ParkAugust August Belmont II James R Keene and Frank K Sturgis founded the Westchester Racing Association in 1895 and for nine years conducted their meetings at Morris Park about two miles East of the present site of Hunter College A dispute over the terms of the Morris Park lease arose in 1904 and it was decided to acquire 600 acres of property lying partly in Queens and partly in Nassau County most of which belonged to the Manice estate The quaint castle housing the Turfland Field Club was built by the Manice family 175 years ago agoRepresentative Representative of House of Rothschild RothschildBelmont Belmont Park honors the name of August Belmont I a banker who came to this country from East Prussia as a repre ¬ sentative of the great House of Rothschild in 1837 and who was elected first presi ¬ dent of the American Jockey Club a posi ¬ tion lie held from 1866 to 1886 The track was built at a cost of between 1750000 and 2000000 In those days dinner at the celebrated Cafe Martin cost 125 a trip to Chinatown in the newfangled auto ¬ mobile with a Chinese supper thrown in came to 2 The New Amsterdam Bank proudly advertised a capital and surplus of 1000000 in the Belmont inaugural souve ¬ nir book while the Mutual Bank boasted of a capital of 200000 and deposits of 3600000 The sum spent on the construc tion of Belmont Park was nothing less than astronomical by 1905 standards standardsWhen When the Westchester Racing Associa ¬ tion moved from Morris Park that track which was considered the last word in splendor when it opened in 1889 was aban ¬ doned Meetings were conducted at Brighton Gravesend and Sheepshead Bay until the Hughes Ban stopped all racing in New York in 1911 and 1912 and those tracks failed to reopen in 1913 Aqueduct which opened in 1894 and Jamaica which antedates Belmont Park by two years are of course still active activeNone None of these tracks compared in size or appointments with the Belmont Park of 1905 In fact the only course that could really be compared with the Hempstead Avenue track was Longchamps which is on public property in the Bois de Boulogne on the outskirts of Paris and which served in many ways as a model for Belmont Park even to the direction in which the horses ran In explaining that the horses Would run in a clockwise direction at Bel ¬ mont the Goodwin brothers wrote wroteThis This wise move was adopted so as to permit a more advantageous location of the various buildings and also to fulfill the requirements as to the direction of the suns rays Man o War was the last winner of the Belmont Stakes to be run in the reverse direction of American practice After that season of 1920 the track which had been damaged by fire during World War I was remodelled The present Turf and Field and clubhouse sections were added to the original grandstand replacing the field stand which had stood at the right of the grandstand grandstandOriginally Originally Six Different Courses CoursesThere There were originally six different race courses at Belmont Park The main track of a mile and onehalf was much as it is today with a sevenfurlong straight chute starting at the southeast end of the front stretch and a shorter chute at the north ¬ west end leading out of what is now he far turn Immediately Jnside the main track was a turf course of a mile and three furlongs The steeplechase course was actually three courses one of a mile and a quarter and two others that wound around and across it pretzel fashion The sixth course was and is the training track the first of its kind in the United States StatesThere There was another novelty at Belmont Park in 1905 which has since disappeared This was a tunnel leading from the old clubhouse near what was the finish line in those days to the infield infieldPresentday Presentday racegoers who visit Belmont Park by train may derive some amusement from the following quotation from the inaugural souvenir book Transportation facilities have been perfected it says there by the Long Island Railroad for the quick handling of enormous crowds by the frequent running of special trains There were also splendid roads from Long Island City for automobiles and carriages carriagesAlfred Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Sr father of Belmont Parks 19391942 president ad ¬ vertised a coach service which took a lim ¬ ited number of the elite from midtown Manhattan to Belmont Park and return for 5 Most coach passengers boardedthe swank vehicles at the Considine Brothers Metropole Hotel at Broadway and Forty second Street StreetThe The souvenir book that has been the source of most of the information in this dissertation includes a fullpage advertise ¬ ment facing a photograph of the Manice mansion that is now the Turf and Field Club that illustrates the changing times most eloquently In large and elegant type the advertisement is headed Beware of Unreliable BookMakers It requires more than casual reading of the body type to discover that the J F Tapley Company really did make books not book but the souvenir also includes some 20 photographs of gentlemen who were the leading bookies of their day with no other identification than their names namesWhile While not precisely legal oral wagering with bookmakers was tolerated until the blackout in 1911 but was decidedly sub rpsa The Goodwins describe the betting ring as The Rotunda or public financial concourse adding that it affords supe ¬ rior roomy facilities for the purpose in ¬ tended The reader was left to draw his own conclusions as to that purpose purposeThough Though the fact has apparently been forgotten Samuel B Lawrence was actual ¬ ly president of the Westchester Racing As ¬ sociation at the time that Belmont Park opened in 1905 but he was soon succeeded by August Belmont II IIWhen When August Belmont II died in 1924 he was succeeded by the late Joseph E EContinued Continued on Page Forty Belmont Named After First American Jockey Club Head HeadContinued Continued from Page Five FiveWidener Widener who presided over the Hemp stead Boulevard track until illhealth com ¬ pelled his resignation in 1939 Widener did much to enhance the beauty of Belmont Park He also added the diagonal straight course which bears his name and which is greatly appreciated by owners and train ¬ ers though anathema with the racing pub ¬ lic This straight course is patterned after the Eclipse Course at Morris Park but is level while that straightaway was slight ¬ ly downhill It is also slightly preferable to the similar course at Longchamps which parallels the front stretch never coming within about three furlongs of the stands Widener was succeeded by Alfred G Vanderbilt who also inaugurated a new course designed to replace the Widener Course This course which was short ¬ lived was merely a chute leading on to the main course at the threefurlong pole When Vanderbilt enlisted in the Navy in April 1942 he was succeeded by George D Widener nephew of the late Joseph E Widener who still holds the office officeThough Though war and postwar restrictions have prevented the present president of the Westchester Racing Association from making any extensive improvements in the track Mr Widener cannot be said to have missed any opportunities and Beautiful Belmont more fully justifies that name each year under the able supervision of track superintendent Cornelius V Boyle While not all will agree that the statue of Man o War which stands in the pad ¬ dock walking ring at this meeting is an adornment no one can gainsay the beauty of the new fountains and pools opposite clubhouse motorists gate or the added splendor of the horticultural display in which gardener James Grant lias outdone all his previous efforts

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