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  How Could it Happen Here !     

AksarbenAksarben Logo

Ak-sar-ben was just Ak-sar-ben no race track or race course just the hyphens. It  was a one mile thoroughbred track, located in Omaha about five miles from the center of town. It featured an open air grandstand as all of the racing was in late spring to mid summer. Over the years the grandstand and clubhouse were expanded, when the track ended it's run there was seating for 11,500 in the grandstand and another 1,250 seats in the clubhouse. The stable area could house 1,650 horses and it looks like there was plenty of parking in the infield.    

AksarbenAfternoon Delight

In the summer of 1970 on my way from New England to Colorado I had a three day to kill in Kansas City. I had the choice to keep driving to Omaha to go to Aksarben or stay in KC to watch the Boston Red Sox's take on the expansion Kansas City Royals. I chose poorly.

I did enjoy the series between the Bosox and Royals and getting a look at their prized rookie Lou Pinnella. Telling myself I would have plenty of time to make it to Omaha some day. We'll I never made it back before the afternoon of August seventh nineteen ninety five when Cody's Ninja Star was the last winner to cross the finish line at Aksarben, one of my biggest regrets.

    Ak-sar-ben (Nebraska spelled backwards) was open as a non profit organization by the Knights of Ak-sar-ben in 1919. During it's day it had a purse value of 7 which would have made it a high end minor track.

The first race run there was a contest for local harness horses. In 1920 the racetrack was dedicated and in 1921 the first thoroughbred meet was conducted.

 For most of it's career it was the premier summer place for horse racing in the mid-west. The Cornhusker Stakes (Ak-sar-bens signature race) consistently increased it's value and drew top level competition. By 1986 the Cornhusker's purse was up to 250,000 and a 7.5 million modernization project had just been completed. Things couldn't have seemed to be better but that was about to change!

AksarbenOde to Omaha

That same year across the border in Iowa, Bluffs Run Dog Track in near by Council Bluffs opened. Management at Ak-sar-ben underestimated the impact that the faster paced Dog Track provided and attendance and the quality of racing started to decline.

In 1992 the Knights of Ak-sar-ben sold the track to Douglas County who operated the track as the "Douglas Racing Corporation" which to the surprise of everyone mysteriously shuttered the track at the conclusion of the 1995 meet.

Triple crown winner Omaha was buried on the site in 1959 a monument stands there to honor his memory. In 2004 the grandstand was finally razed, officially reducing Ak-sar-ben's existence to a memory.

As I mentioned earlier, I never made it to Ak-sar-ben and not unlike the fans in attendance that August day in 1995, I figured there would be a next time. As for poor Omaha, they went to ship him out and the story told is that he was a late scratch, never to be found. I guess back in 1959, it seemed like the honorable thing to do. I guess if you could foresee how the concrete jungle would swallow up Ak-sar-ben back then, that you would have saved your Mickey Mantle baseball cards, and bought stock in something called IBM.