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  Gone To Greener Pastures!     

Green MountainGreen Mountain Logo

It was a beautiful spring day in Southern Vermont on May 24, 1965 and shortly after 2 pm Oxbow under jockey Roy Parker was the first horse to trip the photo finish camera at Green Mountain Park. He was greeted in the winners circle by Lou Smith, the president and driving force behind the Pownal, oval. Despite the fact that everything went off without a hitch the crowd of 4,000 was supposed to be 10,000 and the handle of 200,000 was supposed to 400,000 was a disappointment. Unfortunately this wasn't the beginning it was the beginning of the end for the Mountain.

Green MountainOpening Day Ad

 Management quickly realized that racing days in remote Pownal, Vermont was going to work so they switched to a twilight format but in a few weeks went to nighttime racing which remained the standard till the track closed. In April of 1968 Green Mountain got a shot in the arm as it became the first track east of the Mississippi to conduct Sunday racing. On Sunday's before a holiday it was not unusual for 10,000 fans to turn out. Unfortunately that was short lived as other east coast tracks were allowed to operate on Sunday and the crowds of out of state players stayed closer to home.

Green MountainOpening Harness Ad

 A short twelve years later on a beautiful fall afternoon in September Sandy's World with David Strong was the last horse to get his photo taken at Green Mountain before a farewell crowd of 7,000. Two weeks later the track was converted to dog racing which ran till 1992 when the track finally closed.

 Green Mountain was quite unique as far as race tracks go. It started life with ambitions of being able to extend the aura of the Saratoga meet in a pastoral country setting and died as a dog track. In the middle there was also harness racing and at one time all three meets were conducted in the same year. As for being a Thoroughbred track Green Mountain quickly descended to running bottom level claimers usually running five furlongs and seven and a half furlong distances. It's purse value was 2.

 "All ya gotta say is Herve". As crazy as it sounds Green Mountain might have had a bigger impact to racing on the east coast than any major track. In the mid seventies it introduced Sunday racing to the east coast. In those early days when Green Mountain was the only Sunday game in town the great harness driver Herve Fillion would show up during the harness meet and win at least half the races on the card. You weren't going to get rich but you would cash some tickets.

Green MountainSunday Racing Begins

 Today Green Mountain sits abandoned a few attempts to revive racing have failed, the stable area has been demolished but the grandstand and track remain frozen in time for not having been used in twenty five years the thirteen sixteenth thoroughbred and five eights inner harness track are clearly outlined. In 2014 the track has been converted to a solar farm.

I don't recall my first visit to Green Mountain, but I know I went there a lot. I know I ripped up a lot of tickets, until around 1974 when I finally figured it out, then they close. All I can really remember is that the winning number was green when it was lit, all the other lights were white. I did like Sunday racing at Green Mountain, on the ride home you could stop at one of the many restaurants in the Berkshires. It also helped settle the argument of Vermont vs Rhode Island, as a Lincoln Downs shipper would come in, go off at 3-5 and easily win the days feature race. Rhode Island $1,500 claimers going to Vermont usually did quite well not so much the other way around.

Case in point, a horse named Chester Martini, a speedball out of the gate, a sure thing in a five furlong sprint. I don't know how many times I chased him at Lincoln Downs, he would enter that short stretch with a three length lead and never come close to hitting the board. I had kinda forgotten about him when I was looking at results for Green Mountain, and there he was a winner at 6-5, on a track with a stretch 400 feet longer than Lincolns, where he was never less than 20-1.