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Harrington Raceway

2020 Update

What is now Harington Raceway opened in 1946 as Kent & Sussex Raceway. It was the first pari-mutual track in Delaware. Located at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington it has only run standardbreds since it begin operation.

Harrington Raceway In 1946, Kent & Sussex, became the first standardbred pari-mutuel racetrack and the second overall in the state. Delaware Park opened with thoroughbreds in 1937. Racing was held and still is at the Delaware State Fairgrounds, in Harrington. A novelty back in 1946 racing was held under the lights, many horseman found the original 14 day meet attractive, as they could stay on and winter their horses in the milder Delaware winter.

The fifties brought little change to the Harrington oval that couldn't fit eight horses across. In 1952 racing was suspended at the fair and in 1953 Brandywine Raceway opened as the second harness track in the state. This had little effect on Kent & Sussex as there were plenty of dates to go around. The sixties, were going to usher in some major changes at Harrington.

Kent & Sussex would start off with a fifteen day meet in 1960 and end the era completely different. The track started to add days and by 1965 the meet had expanded to forty days. The real changes came in 1967, the grandstand was remodeled with the addition of a clubhouse, the track was widened to now accept eight horses across. The meet was expanded to 60 days and most of all the track was renamed Harrington Raceway. The competition starts to heat up in 1965 as another harness track opens in nearby Georgetown.

In the seventies things continued to change, the now Harrington Raceway opens 1970, with a spring meet. In 1971, as attendance started to decline Sunday racing was approved in Delaware. It would also be the final year for the ill fated track in Georgetown.

In the eighties, the bump that Secretariat gave the industry, was starting to wear off. Tracks were beginning to feel some financial stress, Harrington was no exception. In 1981, the spring meet was cancelled, gimmicks like the twin tri and pick six were added over the years to boost interest. In 1989 the venerable Brandywine Raceway was turned into a shopping center.

The nineties were a time of panic, Harrington started simulcasting races from Garden State, back in the early days, there was no co-mingle all odds were determined by betting at Harrington. The spring meet came back in 1991 and there were rumblings about slot parlors becoming legal in Delaware. Whether it was real or maybe a little nudge to Delaware politicians Harrington closed the doors early in 1993, citing financial reasons. After that slot parlors were legalized, in 1996 the slots came to Harrington. Simulcasting, with common pools was going strong in 1997, so Harrington became one of the first bridge tracks, changing it's post time to 5:30, which it remains to this day.

The turn of the century brought a few changes and some tragedy to the track. In 2003 a major upgrade was done to the racing surface, widening and banking it. On May 16, popular driver Hal Belote was killed killed during a race. To finish out a major expansion was done to the slot parlor, doubling it's size.                    

 I have visited Harrington Raceway a couple of times, it has an open air grandstand that seats 3,200 and an enclosed Clubhouse that holds another 400. Seating is not a problem at least not when I was there, it was another of those racino sites where the lights were on but nobody was home. There is unlimited parking but don't expect to park close to the track, all those people are hiding somewhere. I recall back in the late sixties driving through Harrington and occasionally seeing the glow of the lights from the track and wondering why I never stopped there.        

2020 Update

Of course the big story is the coronavirus, Harrington's spring meet was cut short because of it. Since the last Harrington update it has maintained it's split year round schedule with Dover Downs, Harrington running April, through October, while Dover goes November to the end of March. The big news happens away from the track at the Casino, in 2010 table games were added and now sports betting is legal in Delaware. Less and less people turn out for the races, do the horsemen rolling in casino money, care? Really with ADW, you don't need the track anymore, the virus has taught us that.