Between Races: Bright Future Looms for Miles Park; Track Kept Open for Winter Training; Junior Derby Becoming a Major Stake, Daily Racing Form, 1959-05-06


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Between Races By Oscar Otis — Bright Future Looms for Miles Park Track Kept Open for Winter Training Junior Derby Becoming a Major Stake CHURCHILL DOWNS, Louisville, Ky., May 5. — One of the pleasanter phases of a turf writers visit in Kentucky in the spring is calling on Gen. J. Fred Miles and his aides. Miles is an Oklaoman who in the early days pioneered the search for oil in Kentucky with a buckboard wagon, found it, and stayed to become a classic example of the Kentuckian at his finest. And part of that facet of his activity, indeed, a major part, centers around his building of Miles Park at the old Louisville fairgrounds into a popular jace track. It has grown both substantially and steadily from year to year to the point that the general and his two key men, Alfred H. Eckles and Joe Hardwick, can now see daylight ahead, to coin a phrase, and something of a real future for the 5 furlongs course which many Louisvil-lians are taking to their heart. Eckles, a one-time army major and long-time prisoner of war in Manchuria, learned friendliness for his fellow man despite his rigorous experiences in a Jap camp, and is translating that into a genuine concern for the happiness of his customers and all concerned with Miles Park. "The general has poured money into the track like the proverbial water," observes Eckles, "and while money is not the only ingredient of success, Id say our efforts, combined with our expenditures, are beginning to bear fruit. Our last meeting showed us well received, solid, and means we are here to stay. Summer Racing in Louisville "We open on June 26 for a 26-day run and will provide Kentucky with its only summer racing, i.e., until Ellis Park opens. Part of the strength of Miles Park lies in the fact that it is completing a circuit in a rich area within Kentucky itself, it conflicts with no other track in Kentucky, and a large number of Louisville people are pleased to enjoy their favorite sport in the summer as well as in the spring and fall. "We have gone more than halfway in our efforts to be good turf citizens as well as good community citizens by keeping our training facilities open in the winter, in fact, the year round. We range from always more than 100 to as many as 150 horses in the off season, and when it becomes too chilly in the winter to work or gallop pleasantly in the open, our eighth-mile indoor training track in one of the huge buildings left over from the fair grounds, is always available to horsemen. But perhaps the greatest source of satisfaction is the popularity of the five-eighths-mile track itself. "It is superbly banked and its cushion is something special. It comes from our sand pits adjacent to the banks of the Ohio River and there is something special about this. We at Miles Park understand that these are the pits once so highly prized by the late Col. Matt Winn of Kentucky Derby-Churchill Downs fame, who, when he was building Lincoln Fields on the outskirts of Chicago and encountered a soil situation which didnt please him, shipped this stuff by the trainload to Illinois to provide a cushion base for Lincoln. "I wouldnt be entirely honest if I said that some of the record-breaking 334 nominations received this year for the Miles Park Junior Derby, a race for two-year-olds on July 18, were not made as a personal tribute to General Miles and the esteem with which he is held in Kentucky. Of these, incidentally, 141 have remained eligible to date, as against a total nomination list of 189 last year. But at the same time, it also would be dishonest to pretend that a tremendous number of nominations received this year was not also a recognition of the Junior Derby as a meritorius stake in its own right, a race which last year grossed some 3,800 and which this coming season is assured of a gross in excess of 7,000. Breeders Aware of Prestige "In other words, the Junior Derby has a prestige far in excess of its value if only for the reason that winning it means something, and Kentucky breeders give a far higher value to prestige than to actual money. If you need any proof of that, merely check back on your own opinions, as printed on more than one occasion, that the Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland is perhaps Americas most authoritative and definitive spring stakes in all the nation." The man is right — we do so believe*. Eckles mention of moving Louisville pit sand to as far away as Crete, 111., to provide for a track there which would be pleasing to perfectionist Matt Winn is of more than passing interest. Miles Park is, as most folks hereabout know, on an alluvial flat of sandy loam adjacent to a bend in the Ohio, and for basic natural advantage before being improved upon by man, this observer doubts if there is any better foundation for a racing strip. We have seen but one race track which was entirely upon an old bed of a river. Riverside Park near Kansas City, and this was a track which was at once fast, safe, and yet which would turn from sloppy to fast within a matter of several hours after even the heaviest of storms. It is interesting that as recently as only two years ago, Keeneland, wishing to solve some of its problems, brought in its present cushion and sub-cushion by the hundreds of truck loads from a sand bar at a curve in the Kentucky River some 15 miles away.

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