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  Gone To The Dogs !     

Hinsdale RacewayHinsdale Logo

Hinsdale Raceway was a half mile harness track that was tucked away in the southwest corner of New Hampshire, a few miles from both the Vermont and Massachusetts borders, it was about one hour north of Springfield Massachusetts. There was the occasional stable that would ship in, but for the most part many of the horses and drivers were local talent, racing for minimal purses, but it still was fun. The track featured a glass enclosed grandstand and clubhouse, the grandstand held 3,500 the clubhouse 2,500. The clubhouse included a small but excellent restaurant, that served the best prime rib in the area. There was parking for 4,000 cars and the stables could accommodate 800 horses. During it's prime most of the cars in the parking lot had license plates from Massachusetts or Connecticut.

Hinsdale RacewayGrand Opening

Shortly after eight P.M. on Thursday August 14, 1958, Stormy Spirit with Freeman Libby in the bike rambled home in 2:18 to win the first race at Hinsdale Raceway. Not a time that would get any attention today, but a new era had begun in this tiny Southern New Hampshire town.

Back in 1958 Hinsdale Raceway was the only game around, and had the market cornered in Western Massachusetts, down to Hartford Connecticut. In fact their largest crowd ever was in 1959. In 1963 Green Mountain Park opened up in Vermont giving Hinsdale some competition. Even with the addition of the Vermont Track, Hinsdale remained a popular destination through the sixties.

In the mid seventies the cost of running a harness meet was getting too costly for the small track, so they added greyhound racing and ran year round. From that point on the popularity of dog racing increased while interest in harness racing waned. From year to year the dog racing dates increased while the harness dates declined, until 1985 when it came to an end.

On Sunday, July 28, 1985 Hinsdale Raceway presented it's last harness card, and it went out in style. On the program that day was the second running of the New Hampshire Sweepstakes Gold Cup, with a purse of $50,000. A nice group of pacers turned out for the race, including Falcon Seelster, one of the best pacers around. Unfortunately for the Seelster he probably ran the worst race of his career, drawing the dreaded eight post on a tight half mile track he got parked out most of the way and finished sixth. I don't remember who did win the race, but I'll always remember the next race,  the ninth.

Hinsdale RacewayTake the Bus

  I was off somewhere, probably drowning my sorrows with a beer having bet on a sure thing like Falcon Seelster, but my wife was back at our spot at the head of the stretch. The horses were warming up for the race, when a young provisional driver on the nine horse was approaching where my wife was standing. Not much on handicaping, she relied on looking at the horses, and was studying the one coming at her. The driver obviously noticed her staring at his horse and for some reason shouted out the famous words "got a hunch bet a bunch". Well we bet some, but the hunch was right the young driver guided the horse from the second tier start to an easy victory. That young driver was Jim Morrill Jr. A short time later as the shadows were getting long on a perfect Sunday afternoon, driver Wendell Donaway guided K C Three to the winners circle to take the last winners photo at Hinsdale Raceway.

 After that season Hinsdale Raceway went exclusively with dog racing. Somewhere along the way the name was changed to Hinsdale Greyhound Park. Simulcasting was also added when it became legal in New Hampshire. The track stayed in operation for almost another twenty five years, but even the dogs were on the decline. Then one day it came to a grinding halt.

On a Monday morning, the fifteenth of December 2008, workers, and patrons eager to cash their previous days tickets were greeted to a padlocked race track. Hinsdale had just closed up shop, the owner threw everybody's money in the back of his Cadillac and rode off into the sunset. I myself contributed, short of hiring a lawyer, filling out tons of paperwork and waiting forever you were screwed. Even the State of New Hampshire was clueless on this one. Moral of the story, cash your tickets, don't accumulate a voucher.

Today the track sits abandoned and deteriorating, waiting for someone to put it out of it's misery. If you look at the aerial view on the photo page you can still see the outline of the harness track outside of the dog track. The far turn on the right of the photo is now a parking lot for a Super Wal-Mart.

Actually as of 2015, Hinsdale Raceway is just a pile of rocks, the structure was torn down and hauled off, but the foundation was pulverized and is sitting there in small piles. I was a frequent gambler at Hinsdale over the years but one thing I remember was that in the harness years they always had the weirdest mutual machines. The original one looked like a prop in a class B science fiction movie, it had a long pointer that the seller would rotate in a half circle containing slots from one to eight. The upgraded version had a traditional keypad but it punched out these tiny tickets, they must have got a deal somewhere. There might even be some good news coming out of Hinsdale.

In March of 2015, William Faucher a Hinsdale resident and longtime horseman finally cleared all the hurdles tossed at him an opened a OTB facility near the old track. One of the stipulations imposed by the New Hampshire Racing Commission was that Faucher must construct a track within three years. The clock is ticking!