Week 11

Day 68 Sunday, October 9

Washington ParkWashington Park

After two days of live racing were ready to hit the road. We're going to head out of Cicero, going south on I-55 before getting off on I-294 and heading into Homewood. Homewood was the second and final site for Historic Washington Park, which held racing from 1926 to 1977. Starting out as a thoroughbred track, Washington Park switched to harness racing in 1962. The massive plant welcomed over 30,000 fans for opening night. Only once in 1970, did thoroughbreds appear again on the track. In 1977 Mrs. O'Leary's cow came calling and the grandstand was reduced to ashes, never to be rebuilt. In Homewood at the corner of Halsted Street and Maple Avenue, there is a small plaque in the Best Buy parking lot commemorating Washington Park, if you follow Maple Avenue a bit on the left you come to Presidents Drive, its a dead end but about half way you would be it the grandstand, if it were still there. Next it's off to recently deceased Balmoral Park.

Balmoral ParkBalmoral Park

From Homewood, we head south on IL-1, the South Dixie Highway for about a half hour until we come to Crete, the home of Balmoral Park. Starting out as Lincoln Fields back in 1926, this track never seemed like it fit in, maybe it was just a little too far from Chicago?  Lincoln Fields did OK till it was shut down for World War II, in 1952 the grandstand got a visit from Mrs. O'Leary's cow and after being rebuilt it was sold in 1955 and renamed Balmoral Park, but that didn't stop the problems. For many years the Balmoral thoroughbred dates were moved to other Chicago area tracks. In 1991 thoroughbreds were eliminated and Balmoral became a standardbred venue, which is how it stayed till 2015, when it was shuttered. Lincoln Fields was one of the tracks used in the con, in the movie "The Sting" another oddity, how many half mile thoroughbred tracks are turned into mile harness tracks? The fate of Balmoral may still be in the air but our next stop isn't.

Quad CityQuad City Downs

Leaving Crete we're going to hook up with I-80 for about a three hour drive to East Moline, the home of Quad City Downs. Opened in 1973 as East Moline Downs, it was going to provide harness and thoroughbred racing for the fans in Northwest Illinois and Eastern Iowa. It did provide harness racing for twenty years but the runners didn't fair too well, the inaugural meet shut down a month early never to return. Closed for over twenty years the track is still there, until recently it was an OTB outlet for Churchill Downs, but with no movement on gaming for Illinois tracks, they finally shuttered the place, so who knows it's future. For now it's still there to see, so take a look before we meet in St. Louis.

Fairmount ParkFairmount Park

Well it's more like East St. Louis, but if you want to cross the Mississippi again The Gateway Arch is there for a tourist alert. We leave East Moline heading south on I-74 to I-55, which around four hours later gets us to Collinsville, the site of Fairmount Park. Opened way back in 1925, Fairmount Park keeps beating the odds and the riverboat casinos, keeping it's doors open for over ninety years. The poor step child of Chicago racing, Fairmount Park has been racing under the lights since 1947, and up to 1999 ran both a harness and standardbred meet and yes nothing is sacred in Illinois, Mrs. O'Leary and her cow made a road trip here in 1974. Season's over here but simulcasting is available so no problem getting in. From here our final stop for today is only a few minutes away at the sister track that didn't fair to well.

There is a Cahokia, Illinois famous for it's Indian mounds and there was Cahokia Downs, but that's officially listed in East St. Louis. Lasting for twenty years between 1954 and 1974 Cahokia Downs split harness and thoroughbred dates with Fairmount Park. Today, after forty years there isn't much to see, but if you get of I-55 at New Missouri Avenue going south you will see a Flying J truck stop. The street it's on is Racehorse Drive which in a few feet intersects with Harness Lane, if you get out of the car there, it's a good chance your standing around where the eight pole was. Not really known for family outings, it was said to be a good day if only your hubcaps were missing, not the whole car when you left the track. Two men were actually blown up in the parking lot one night when they started their car. On a happy note both Dave Johnson and Tom Durken got their starts at Cahokia Downs. We'll stay around here tonight, but definitely not in the parking lot, before continuing east in the morning.

Day 68 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 466 233.00 120.00
Total 20,595 11,287.00 9,885.00

Day 69 Monday, October 10

Ellis ParkEllis Park

We're leaving the St. Louis area heading east on I-64 through Illinois and Indiana, when we hit exit 25A we take US-41 into Henderson, Kentucky the home of Ellis Park. A family owned track since 1922, Ellis Park has a unique history. The natural border between Indiana and Kentucky is the Ohio River, but Ellis Park is north of the river and even has an Indiana Area Code. It seems that after 1792 when the boundary was set, that the Ohio River changed course, but the original boundary remained. Racing is conducted in the summer and the track runs on both the Forth of July and Labor Day, which is traditionally closing day. Rumored to be closing after the 2010 season, Ellis Park has added instant wagering, to supplement simulcasting to offer horse players a year round venue. We probably came in the Indiana entrance, but we'll exit the Kentucky, but keep a lookout the next track comes up fast.

Audubon RacewayRiverside Downs

Shortly after crossing the river we need to turn off on Stratman Road, a few years ago there was a big arrow that pointed to Riverside Downs, but that is gone now. If you stay on Stratman Road you eventually come to Riverside Downs, or as it was called in the old days Audubon Raceway. Mostly known as a local harness track, it also went by Midwest Harness and Western Kentucky Harness Raceway. Over the years standardbreds, thoroughbreds and quarter horses shared the stage in Henderson. Today the track still sits on the Banks of the Ohio, but has been closed as a training facility for a few years now. Hopefully we can get close for a good look before heading to Paducah.

Bluegrass DownsBluegrass Downs

From Henderson we're going to continue south on US-41, till we come to I-69 which we take west to I-24 and in about two hours we arrive in Paducah. In the western part of the town we find Players Bluegrass Downs, which opened as a quarter horse track in 1984, switched to thoroughbreds in 1993 and finally to standardbreds in 1998, which still run today. Racing is held for about a month in early summer, with live racing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Simulcasting is available year round, Wednesday to Sunday, today being Monday we're out of luck. It looks like we should be able to get a good look at the small glass enclosed grandstand and clubhouse before heading for the Tennessee border.

Kentucky DownsKentucky Downs

Getting to the last stop of the day is going to look a little familiar, as we backtrack on I-24 and US-41 to Hopkinsville, from there it's east on US-68 till the town of Russellville, where we take KY-100 south into Franklin. Unless you've been to Europe, you have never seen a place like this. Opened in 1990 on land where I guess people went to kill each other, it was called Dueling Grounds and ran one day of steeplechase racing over it's British style turf course. In 1993, thoroughbreds took over and the meet was expanded to seven days. After an ownership change the track was renamed Kentucky Downs in 1998. Today with the help of simulcasting and instant wagering, Kentucky Downs is one of the most successful tracks in the state, despite only racing four days in the fall. It probably doesn't hurt that it's only a mile or so from Tennessee, which has on gambling at all. That's it for today, tomorrow we head for a place where the average daily handle is about twenty bucks a day.        

Day 69 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 436 218.00 120.00
Total 21,031 11,505.00 10,005.00

Day 70 Tuesday, October 11

Thunder RidgeThunder Ridge

We start the day heading north on I-65, but after about forty miles, that's it for the Interstates. At exit 43 we turn off on The Louie B Nunn Cumberland Parkway, or KY-90, till we pick up The Hal Rogers Parkway or KY-90 which should get us to Prestonsburg, after about five hours. Once we get to town we still have to navigate a winding KY-321 for about five miles till we come to Thunder Ridge. This half mile harness venue opened in 1994 and features an open air grandstand that seats 3,000 and allegedly a clubhouse that seats 282. It is said the nightly handle is twenty dollars, so it won't be easy to blend in here, you might be the only one there. Like Bluegrass Downs, Thunder Ridge runs for about a month in the spring, with racing three nights a week. Simulcasting is available Wednesday to Sunday. It was rumored that Thunder Ridge was done after 2015, it was being bought by Keeneland, which was going to turn it into a quarter horse track and betting parlor, but the harness horses showed back up in 2016, so who knows? No matter what you probably won't forget your visit here. Tomorrow you will have no problem blending in.  

Day 70 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 268 134.00 100.00
Total 21,299 11,639.00 10,105.00

Day 71 Wednesday, October 12

Red MileThe Red Mile

We're going to leave Prestonsburg heading west on KY-9009 and eventually to I-64, which take's us to Lexington and the heart of horse country in Kentucky. After the two hour trip, our first stop is pretty much in downtown Lexington, at The Red Mile. Opened way back in 1875, the track gets it's name from the bright red racing surface. The Red Mile has also added Instant Racing to supplement simulcasting and make the facility a year round destination. Live racing occurs towards the fall, with The Grand Circuit filling out the last two weeks. When you enter the track you will notice the old round barn, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still used for special functions. Enjoy the nostalgia, take a look around, don't dally we've got some first class live racing a few miles away. Before we leave a tourist alert, not far from here is the Kentucky Horse Farm, a working farm it has had many famous thoroughbred and standardbreds stabled here after their retirement, worth a look.


Today we get first class racing at a first class facility, Keeneland. Opened in 1936, it may not have the years other tracks have, but it does have the class, it was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Keeneland is as modern as a track you'll find, but it maintains it's classic look from when it was built. Keeneland was one of the first tracks to install a synthetic surface to it's one and one eight mile oval, which encloses a seven and a half furlong turf course. Keeneland holds two short meets a year, one in the spring and one in the fall, no matter when you attend, it's all about tradition here. The only thing I can compare it to is a day at Saratoga. Keeneland did'nt even have an announcer until 1997, the track is also the site of the Keeneland Sales. Enjoy today, tomorrow we go from tradition to commercial.  


Day 71 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 126 63.00 200.00
Total 21,425 11,702.00 10,305.00

Day 72 Thursday, October 13

We probably could have stayed another day, spent some quality time at the horse park and another day at Keeneland, but the schedule is tight. From Lexington, it's back on I-64 west for a little over an hour to Louisville, and our first stop Louisville Downs. Louisville Downs introduced harness racing to the area in 1966. In it's day it was one of the quality harness tracks in the country. In 1981 call-a-bet was created here, long before any kind of remote wagering was available, but innovation was it's undoing. The first track to full card simulcast in Kentucky, Louisville Downs caught the attention of Churchill Downs, who were against the idea until they saw the success at the harness track. Churchill Downs now wanted their pie, the problem, only one pie, no doubt who won that one. In 1992 Churchill Downs bought out Louisville Downs, turned it into a training track and eventually an OTB parlor. Falling to disrepair the grandstand visible from I-64 for almost fifty years was torn down. Today it still remains a training facility. Now off to the owners house.

Churchill DownsChurchill Downs

A few minutes from Louisville Downs, here it is, Churchill Downs, racing fan or not, everybody knows the first Saturday in May. Opened in 1875, the twin spires were added in 1895, fast forward one hundred and twenty years and it hard to find the original grandstand that's now surrounded by modern multi level structures. Say what you will about tradition, but introducing night racing with programs like "The Downs After Dark" combining cocktails, music and racing to attract a younger crowd, is necessary for the survival of racing. The fall meet doesn't start for a couple of weeks, but simulcasting is going on so we should be able to take a good look at this icon of racing. Next up, lets see if we can find the home of  "The Junior Derby".  

On the western edge of Louisville, near the banks of the Ohio River a new track opened in 1956, it was called Fairgrounds Speedway and the breed of choice were standardbreds. After two years the standardbreds were replaced by thoroughbreds and the track was renamed Miles Park. Miles Park would open after the Churchill Downs spring meet and for a gimmick featured "The Junior Derby". In 1974 the six furlong oval was sold and became Commonwealth Downs and for some reason the track that had one chute, grew three appendages and now had a chute on every turn, it looked like a Swiss Army knife. Commonwealth only lasted one season and in 1978 the grandstand was torched, effectively ending "The Junior Derby" and Miles Park. Today there's no sign it existed, but if you can find Gibson Lane heading east and stop the car a few hundred feet from the I-264 overpass and look north you would be looking straight down the original Four and a half furlong chute. That's it for today, maybe we head back to Churchill Downs for some simulcasting. Tomorrow a rare double header in Indiana.

Day 72 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 100 50.00 150.00
Total 21,525 11,752.00 10,455.00

Day 73 Friday, October 14

Indiana DownsIndiana Downs

We can have a leisurely pace today, maybe even stop for breakfast, as we make the two hour ride up I-65 to Shelbyville, Indiana. We're heading for Indiana Downs or Indiana Grand as it's now called, for live racing a 1 pm. Amid opposition from Hoosier Park, Indiana Downs opened in 2002, with a glass enclosed grandstand, a one mile oval, used for both standardbreds  and thoroughbreds, it also included a seven furlong turf course. In 2008 casino wagering came to Indiana Downs, elevating it's status in the racing world. In 2012 both Indiana tracks came to an agreement, each track running a single meet, Indiana Downs having a turf course got the thoroughbred meet, Hoosier Park got the standardbreds. We're heading to Hoosier Park from here, but coming back to spend the night.

Hoosier ParkHoosier Park

 From Indiana Downs we head up IN-9 for the hour ride to Anderson, home of Hoosier Park, where live racing starts at 4:45 today. The ride may seem like a scene from children of the corn, but you'll get to Hoosier Park in one piece. Opened in 1994 Hoosier Park is the senior track in Indiana, for years Hoosier ran a split thoroughbred an harness meet, but starting in 2012, Hoosier Park became a harness track. Hoosier Park also has a casino and offers year round simulcasting in it's glass enclosed facility, it features a one mile dirt oval. After the races here we'll head back to Shelbyville, for the evening, before heading to Ohio, tomorrow.    

Day 73 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 190 95.00 140.00
Total 21,715 11,847.00 10,595.00

Day 74 Saturday, October 15

Turfway ParkTurfway Park

We end the week with some live Ohio Sire's Stakes action at Dayton Raceway tonight, but we have a few stops in between. We head out of Shelbyville, heading south on I-74, then we follow the I-275 Cincinnati Loop south for one quick stop in Kentucky. Right over the border we find Florence, Kentucky the home of Turfway Park our last Kentucky track. Originally named Latonia, the track opened in 1959, featuring both standardbreds and thoroughbreds on a one mile oval. In 1988 the track with the multi level glass enclosed grandstand was renamed Turfway Park, at some point standardbreds were dropped and Turfway Park is strictly a thoroughbred track. Today Turfway is the wintertime track of Kentucky running from November to April and features year round simulcasting. Next it's a short ride over the Ohio to Cincinnati.

Belterra ParkBelterra Park

About ten miles east of Cincinnati we come to Belterra Park, one of Ohio's new racino facility's. Better know over the years as River Downs, the track on the Banks of the Ohio started out in 1925 as Coney Island, after it was destroyed in the 1937 flood it was rebuilt and named River Downs. After the 2012 season River Downs was itself torn down and rebuilt as Belterra Park, a 24/7 casino, with simulcasting and live summertime racing on a one mile dirt track and an inner seven furlong turf course. Racing ended a week ago, but the place is always open, so take a good look before we head up the road.

From Belterra Park we're going to pick up I-275 to I-71 north to Lebanon, in Lebanon we'll be heading to the Warren County Fairgounds, which was once the home of Lebanon Raceway. Opened in 1948, as a half mile harness track, the glass enclosed grandstand which ran from October to May in the Southern Ohio harness circuit. The last races here were in 2013, before racing was moved to it's successor a few miles away. The grandstand and track are still here so hopefully we can get a good look.

Miami ValleyMiami Valley

From Lebanon Raceway, we take a quick ride over OH-63 to Miami Valley Gaming, one of Ohio's newly relocated casino sites. A joint venture with Delaware North and Churchill Downs featuring a 24/7 casino, year round simulcasting and live harness racing on a five eights mile oval. Residents of Lebanon got lucky as Miami Valley is the only relocated track in Ohio that stayed in the same town. No worries about getting in here, afternoon simulcasting should be in full swing. So enjoy a race or two in this new facility, before we head to another relocated venue in Dayton.

Dayton RacewayDayton Raceway

Our last stop of the day is at Dayton Raceway, one of two cookie cutter Hollywood Gaming sites in Ohio. Tonight not only do we have live racing, but also Ohio Sires Stakes action on the five eights mile oval. Dayton is the replacement track for Raceway Park, which was over two hours away in Toledo. It's curious how Ohio abandoned the Michigan border and put most of it's racino eggs in the southwest part of the state. Dayton has a 24/7 casino and year round simulcasting. For a while now Hollywood Gaming's interest in horse racing has been questioned, but when you see that the graphic for their Dayton Racing home page is of drivers and horses at Bangor Raceway in Maine, makes you wonder! Anyways we'll enjoy ending the week with live racing before heading toward Michigan.

We end up week eleven by visiting twenty two tracks, but most important we had four cards of live racing, more than we've seen for a while. Looks like we're heading into the homestretch with less than two weeks to go.

Day 74 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 190 95.00 120.00
Total 21,905 11,942.00 10,715.00

Tracks Visited Live
Week 11 22 4
Total 192 24

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