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Yonkers Raceway

History of Yonkers Raceway

1899 Track opened as Empire City Trotting Club. It was build at a cost of $780,000 by copper magnate William H. Clark and grocery tycoon James Butler; the actual construction was done by Seth Griffin. Opening day, September 4, drew 12,000 patrons. Drivers' colors were first introduced at Empire City, and the three fastest pacers in the country at that time, Joe Patchen, Star Pointer, and John R. Gentry, met in a showdown in only the third day of operation. The grandstand, built of steel, held 7,500. Clark passed away following the 1899 season.

1900-1906 The Empire City Trotting Club remained dark except for special occasions, such as the 1903 appearance of Dan Patch.

1905 James Butler bought the Empire City Trotting Club.

1907 Empire City reopened with thoroughbred racing, which would become a fixture through 1942, after which the flats moved to Jamaica due to the wartime restrictions on gasoline. Major stakes such as the Empire City and Westchester Handicaps attracted the top runners of the era, including Seabiscuit, Discovery, and Questionnaire.

1940 Pari-mutuel wagering legalized. The Westchester track was enlarged and improved at a cost of $600,000. Grandstand, clubhouse, dining, refreshment and other facilities were enlarged and modernized, and a new building for pari-mutuel machines was created at the end of the grandstand.

1942 James Butler passed away.

1943 Harness racing returns to Westchester, where the Hambletonian was held that year. Volo Song, with Ben White at the controls, won the prestigious event.

1948 A harness group, known as Algam Corporation and headed by William H. Cane, bought the property from the Butlers. Others in the group included Nathan Herzfeld, Joseph Henschel, and Max Getz, and the price of the purchase was $2.4 million.

1950 The track took on major renovations under direction of Cane, the 'Father of the Hambletonian'. The facility was renamed Yonkers Raceway, and Cane took over as president. A half-mile oval replaced its mile predecessor. Clubhouse and grandstand facilities were enlarged, as was the parking area, at a cost of $2 million. The venue reopened April 27 to 21,178 patrons who wagered $688,009. Yonkers achieved the first $1 million handle in trotting history on May 20. Crowds averaged 14,766 and wagered $688,335 per night over 73 programs that year. Clark Hanover, driven by Frank Darish, won the first race ever at the new Yonkers Raceway on that hallmark day on April 27.

1954 On July 28, Algam Corporation merged with Yonkers Trotting Association and becomes Yonkers Raceway, Inc. Control of the new company was in the hands of Alfred Tananbaum, Frederick Ballon and M. Duke Manacher, who together hold a majority of the voting stock under a ten-year trusteeship agreement and are members of the executive committee. They purchased control of Algam from Old Country Trotting Association for $1,750,000 in April of that year. Tananbaum headed Tanbro Fabrics, the largest textile converting company in the country. That same year, Yonkers became the first harness facility to top $2 million in handle in a single night.

1955 The Trotting Triple Crown originated with the Yonkers Trot conceived to complement the Hambletonian and Kentucky Futurity. The first Cane Pace was held in 1955, as well.

1956 The Tananbaum brothers, Martin, Stanley and Alfred, assumed control of the Hilltop Oval, with Martin being named president. The Cane Pace was grouped with the Little Brown Jug and the Messenger Stake to form the Pacing Triple Crown.

1958 An $18 million construction project was undertaken prior to the season. An ultra-modern six level clubhouse and four-story Parkadrome were unveiled on August 1. The clubhouse swelled the crown capacity to 42,000 persons. The massive Parkadrome was capable of accommodating 3,000 autos. Twin-level barns, the first of their kind, were also added.

1960 Yonkers revives the Old Glory Horse Sale after a 22-year absence.

1962 Yonkers again played the part of record-setter, as it became the first harness track to top the $3 million handle mark for a single night, November 30. A closing night crowd of 35,677 wagered an amazing $3,191,020 on that unforgettable evening.

1963 Both Yonkers Trot and Cane Pace now raced at a distance of one mile, rather than the previous mile and a sixteenth.

1964 LaPaloma Pace and Sheppard Pace debut.

1968 Cardigan Bay, the sport's first millionaire, is retired at Yonkers on October 12 at the age of 12.

1969 The highest single-night handle ever at Yonkers, $3,220,686 was registered on December 15.

1970 Martin Tananbaum passes away on March 24.

1972 The five Rooney brothers of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia purchase Yonkers Raceway for $52 million in the largest private racetrack purchase in U.S. history. Tim, the middle brother of the five, is installed as President. Among the first actions of the new ownership was the hiring of the highly-respected Milton D. Taylor to be Director of Racing.

1973 Yonkers installs an innovative in-house color television system with videotape replay. The Hilltop reaches its highest total handle ever, taking in over $317 million in only 160 racing dates.

1974 For the first time, eliminations are held for both of Yonkers' Triple Crown events, the Yonkers Trot and the Cane Pace.

1975 The City and State of New York and the City of Yonkers become the largest beneficiaries of Yonkers Raceway revenue in history.

1976 Hall of Famer Stanley Dancer wins his record fourth Cane Pace aboard Keystone Ore.

1977 Bill Haughton scores his second consecutive Yonkers Trot championship with Green Speed. The Hall of Famer won the 1976 edition with Steve Lobell.

1978 The Cane Pace and Yonkers Trot celebrate their Silver Anniversaries. Armbro Tiger (Herve Filion) and Speedy Somolli (Howard Beissinger) take the respective Triple Crown events.

1979 On June 30, driver Jim Miller pilots Tijuana Taxi to the all-age Yonkers track record of 1:56:3. Herve Filion scores his 7,000th win and Carmine Abbatiello wins his fourth Yonkers driving title.

1980 The legendary Niatross (Clint Galbraith) stops off at Yonkers to win his elimination and the final of the Cane Pace, which beings his Triple Crown run. Abbatiello wins his third straight Hilltop driving crown, the fifth of his career.

1981 Carmine Abbatiello continues his dominance of the Yonkers driving colony by winning his fourth straight and sixth overall dash-win championship. Jim Marohn scores the biggest win of his career by reining upstart Wildwood Jeb to victory in the Cane Pace.

1982 The clubhouse was refurbished and three new restaurant-pub facilities, the J. Butler Saloon, the Tavern 1899, and the Open Hearth Bar, were added, offering turn-of-the-century style atmosphere. Ted Wing reined Skip By Night to a 1:55:3 mile on July 10, establishing a world record for an aged pacer on a half-mile track.

1983 A horsemen's section, the 'Empire City Trotting Club', was constructed on the upper grandstand level adjacent to the press box.

1984 Empire Terrace Dining Room renovated and 125 television sets were added, allowing for a a set at virtually every table.

1985 Falcon Seelster, with Tom Harmer up, sets a new track record of 1:53:4 on August 24 during the first elimination of the Cane Pace.

1986 Thoroughbred racing returned to Yonkers in the form of simulcasting from NYRA tracks. Live telecasts originating from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga ushered in a whole new era at the Hilltop Oval. Hall of Famer Billy Haughton dies on July 15 as a result of injuries suffered in the Sheppard Pace eliminations ten days earlier.

1987 On June 23, Mike Lachance wins a world record twelve races in one day by scoring seven wins in the matinee card and five more at night. Herve Filion records his 10,00th career win on May 24 during the Westchester County Fair.

1988 Two-time Harness Horse of the Year Mack Lobell secures his place in Yonkers history by winning the first Yonkers International Trot on August 20 for the United States and establishes a new track standard for trotters with a 1:57:1 mile on August 27.

1990 The 'Hubless Rail' consisting of two-foot Styrofoam pylons, is installed at Yonkers on September 10. Carmine Abbatiello, the 'Red Man' records his 7,000th career win on October 23, making him the second driver in harness history to reach the plateau.

1991 Covert Action sets all-age track record of 1:53:1 on March 16. Walter Case, Jr. becomes the youngest driver to hit 4,500 win mark aboard Q Byrd in 10th race on April 18. Herve Filion hits 13,000 win mark on June 4 behind That's Dancing in 4th race. Jake and Elwood ties track record of 1:53:1 on August 24 in the U.S. Pacing Championship. On October 1, Case sets word record for wins in a season at one track, piloting Amazing Cash to victory in the 5th race for his 488th victory. Case ended the year with 642 wins.

1992 Walter Case, Jr. becomes the youngest driver to reach 5,000 victories when he pilots Royal Ironstone to victory in the 4th race on January 16. Yonkers unveils its inside stretch, or passing lane on February 7. McCluckey and Magic Lobell finish in a dead-heat for first in the Yonkers Trot on July 11. Artsplace sets a new Yonkers all-age track record of 1:52:1 in the U.S. Pacing Championship on August 15. Ted Wings records his 4,000th career win in race two on October 17 aboard Persnipitation in race one on October 27, breaking his own record of 642 set last year. Case wins number 815 on December 12 in the 5th race aboard Radar Hanover, breaking Herve Filion's all-time mark of 814. Case would finish the year with 800 wins at Yonkers, 843 overall on the season.

1993 Silver Almahurst (Jim Morrill Jr.) sets a world record on a half-mile track by capturing the George Morton Levy Memorial Final on April 24 in a sizzling 1:50:4. Yonkers Raceway bans all bent-shaft sulkies effective June 14. American Winner (Ron Pierce) sets a new Yonkers Trot record on July 10 by capturing the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown in 1:56:2. This mark also sets a new Yonkers Raceway track record. On August 14, the USA's Giant Force captured the 35th International Trot in 2:27, a world record for the mile and 1/4 distance. Walter Case, Jr. becomes the youngest driver to record 6000 wins when he pilots Total Sahbra to victory in the 12th race on September 10. Cambest records his second consecutive Haughton Memorial victory on November 20 and is then retired in the winner's circle.

1994 Governor Mario Cuomo visits Yonkers on July 15 to formally sign the omnibus racing bill. It was the first-ever visit to the Hilltop by a sitting Governor. Yonkers ushers in interstate simulcasting on July 18 at 9 p.m. with an eight-race presentation from Sportsman's Park. Yonkers offer simulcasting from The Meadowlands on August 3. The New Jersey track had begun receiving the Yonkers signal on August 1. Luc Ouellette records a seven win night on June 21. He would repeat this performance again on August 4, October 20 and December 27. Wally Hennessey establishes a New York Night of Champions record on September 17 by piloting four winners. Breeders Crown champion Village Jiffy concludes his racing career with a triumph in the Haughton Memorial on November 12.

1995 In-home betting debuts on Crosswalk Channel 71 on March 4. Luc Ouellette sets world record of nine wins on one card on July 22. CR Kay Suzie captures the Yonkers Trot on July 8 in 1:56, setting a new stakes record and tying the world for a filly trotter on a half-mile oval. Sweden's His Majesty wins the 36th International Trot on August 19 in a world record 2:26:2.

1996 - Present In 1996, Yonkers Raceway "stretched the stretch", elongating the homestretch by 50 percent from 440 feet to its present 660 feet. That change, along with the implementation of added-distance racing (1 1/16 miles), allowed those horses with outside post position more opportunity to leave the gate and more "closers" to have a chance to get into the action...and the winner's circle.

The Raceway underwent a dramatic facelift in late 1997 with the demolition of the aging grandstand.

Yonkers continued to make news on the track in 1997, as Western Dreamer won the Raceway's final Cane Pace en route to capturing the sport's first Pacing Triple Crown since Ralph Hanover some 14 years earlier.

Following the 1997 Cane, the race relocated to Freehold Raceway, where it is still contested.

The 1998 season saw driver Walter Case Jr. rewrite the records books. Case won 978 races at Yonkers, smashing the record for the most wins by one driver at one track in a single year. Case's 1,076 total wins also set a single-season standard.

Yonkers Raceway threw itself a party in 1999, celebrating the track's centennial. Many of the sport's luminaries stopped by to be part of the festivities, and the Raceway ran a week-long series of promotions leading up to the '99 Yonkers Trot (won by CR Renegade). The Raceway entered the new millennium as it left the old one, as one of the premier venues for harness racing in North America.

September 11, 2001. What began as a normal Tuesday changed very quickly, and very tragically. For those of us at Yonkers Raceway, the reactions -- grief, horror, shock, anger, disbelief -- echoed those from all around the world. The Raceway remained dark for a week (five programs) following the tragedy before getting back to business in a radically changed world. As they did then, our hearts and prayers reach out to those affected by the hideous series of events.

On the track, Yonkers raceway played host to yet another New York-bred Harness Horse of the Year. The 3-year-old pacing filly sensation Bunny Lake made Yonkers Raceway her own personal playground, winning all four of her local starts (9-for-9 at Yonkers through ages 2 and 3). Bunny Lake joined other Empire State standouts -- 2000 Harness Horse of the Year Gallo Blue Chip along with '95 and '96 Horse of the Year Moni Maker -- as those who excelled at Yonkers.

The multi-million-dollar New York Sires Stakes program is annually among the richest in the country. Each year, the NYSS culminates with the New York Night of Champions, showcasing the "best of the best" among the 2- and 3-year olds of both sexes and gaits in the richest night of racing in the state. The Night of Champions, begun at Yonkers in 1991 and hosted there ever since, offers a total $1.2 million purse.