Thoroughbred racing at Pocono.

Chariot racing thrilled spectators as far back as the ancient Greek Olympics, and in the U.S., horse racing evolved from neighborhood competitions between riders or drivers into a billion dollar industry. The country’s first thoroughbred race track was established in Hempstead Plains, Long Island, New York in 1665, and by the 1890’s there were over 300 thoroughbred tracks in the U.S. Then, in the early 1900’s, due to scandals and moral opposition to racing and gambling, most race tracks closed. However, in 1908, states looking for added revenue to stimulate the economy legalized pari-mutual betting, and horse racing made a booming comeback. The Roaring Twenties was a time of high living and rapid growth in industry and mass production. Sports heroes were legendary, and the three biggest stars were baseball great Babe Ruth, heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey, and thoroughbred great Man O’ War. In 1920, Man O’ War drew thousands of fans to the racetrack and thousands followed his races on the radio as he won all 11 of his races. After the stock market crashed and the Great Depression set in, movies, radio, and horse racing still flourished as they provided a great escape, exciting entertainment, and a diversion for struggling Americans. Growing in popularity until WW11, horse racing and baseball were the most popular spectator sports in the country, and more people attended horse races than any other sporting event. Throughout history, horse racing survived many ups and downs, including controversies, swindles, and scandals, yet continued to appeal to people from all walks of life including the social elites and the working class.

The Meadows opening night program in 1963.

Though late to the game of legalized horse racing, Pennsylvania’s history has deep ties to both thoroughbred and harness racing. Nicknamed the “farmer’s sport”, harness racing began on back country roads and village streets using wooden buggies as carts, and the sport thrived until horse racing came to an abrupt halt when it was banned in 1820 and gambling was forbidden. In order to evade the law, people raced trotters which were horses used for work and transportation, not just racing, and therefore exempt from the ban. Trotting races drew huge crowds, and the first race track dedicated to driving races opened in Philadelphia in the mid 1820’s. Named Hunting Park, the track held trotting exhibitions, and no money changed hands. In 1879, trotting races, restricted to standardbreds, were allowed to offer prize money at summer agricultural fairs, and when the oldest fair, the York Fair established a new fairground in 1889, it included a half mile track and grandstand for harness racing. The races attracted large crowds resulting in a demand for faster and better horses which paved the way for the establishment and success of Hanover Shoe Farms, Inc.

York Fair (1930s?)

Founded in the early 1900’s by Harper Sheppard and Clinton Myers, owners of the Hanover Shoe Company which manufactured leather shoes, Hanover Shoe Farms, Inc. became and remains the largest, most prominent, and famous standardbred horse breeder in the world. Located on hundreds of acres in Hanover, PA, the farm originally bred and sold horses for racing at county fairs. Managed by Sheppard’s son, Lawrence, the farm’s goal was to improve the breed and make Hanover the “greatest name in harness racing.” By continuously acquiring well-bred and champion trotting and pacing stallions and mares, Hanover continues to breed and sell race horse prospects that have gone on to win classic races including the Hambletonian, Little Brown Jug, and the Breeders Crown series.

Though harness racing’s popularity at the fairs continued, legalization of thoroughbred racing stalled. At the turn of the twentieth century, and long before the legalization of thoroughbred racing in the state, Pennsylvania aristocrats owned, bred, and raced champion thoroughbreds in neighboring states including New York and Maryland. Philadelphia society had a long history and involvement with thoroughbreds including one of the greatest race horses of all times, Man O’ War. Samuel Riddle, a wealthy textile manufacturer from Glen Riddle, PA, bought Man O’ War as a yearling at the Saratoga yearling sale, and he became a superstar. Nicknamed “Big Red”, Man O’ War drew thousands of fans to watch his brilliant performances at 2 and 3, and in 1937, War Admiral, a son of Man O’ War, also owned by Riddle, won the Triple Crown.

Harness and Thoroughbred racing at the Allegheny Fair early 1900s.

Since horse racing was still illegal in PA, another Philadelphian, George Elkins built a state-of-the-art race track at his property in Philadelphia where society gathered for informal racing. Elkins’ business partner, George Widener Jr., another wealthy and powerful businessman and owner of Erdenheim Farm in Whitemarsh Township, PA, raced five Eclipse award winning thoroughbreds including Jaipur, Battlefield, and Stefanita. Widener, one of the most prominent men in American horse racing was elected chairman of The Jockey Club in 1916 and was an honorary chairman until his death.

Many wealthy, prominent, and influential Pennsylvania horse owners lobbied for the legalization of horse racing, and finally in 1959, the state passed the Race Horse Industry Reform Act which cleared the way for the construction of statewide race tracks and pari-mutual wagering.

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It's day 6 and our final give-a-way for #NationalGameAndPuzzleWeek! THANK YOU to everyone who entered our raffle and enjoyed following us this week!

CONGRATULATIONS to our last winner Kimberly McDaniel! We will be contacting you via email to get your shipping info.
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#smallbusinesssaturday is the day after Black Friday to remind you that it important to support small businesses, especially around the holidays. Head to https://oldsmokeclothing.com/pa-racing/ to grab your last-minute gifts! ...

It's day 5 of #NationalGameAndPuzzleWeek and CONGRATULATIONS to tonight's winner Tara Spach! We will be contacting you via email to get your shipping info.

Tomorrow is the last day of games and puzzles to give a way, so make sure to enter here: http://ow.ly/l5bc50GTZkT
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Gobble Gobble! It's day 4 of #NationalGameAndPuzzleWeek and CONGRATULATIONS to tonight's winner Jamie Waugaman! We will be contacting you via email to get your shipping info.

We still have 2 more days of games and puzzles to give a way, so make sure to enter here: http://ow.ly/l5bc50GTZkT
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Happy Thanksgiving! Thankful to be back at the tracks with fans young and old! ...

It's day 3 of #NationalGameAndPuzzleWeek and CONGRATULATIONS to tonight's winner Michael
Wandishin! We will be contacting you via email to get your shipping info.

Don't worry... We still have 3 more days of games and puzzles for you to win! Enter: http://ow.ly/l5bc50GTZkT
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It's day 2 of #NationalGameAndPuzzleWeek and CONGRATULATIONS to tonight's winner Stephanie Keene! We will be contacting you via email to get your shipping info.

Don't worry we still have 4 more days of games and puzzles for you to win! Enter: http://ow.ly/l5bc50GTZkT
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Congrats Brian Plowcha! You are our first winner this week for the #NationalGameAndPuzzleWeek give-a-way! We will be contacting you via email to get your shipping info.

If you didn't win today, we have 5 more days of games and puzzles to give away! ➡️ Enter by clicking the link on our IG bio.

#gamesandpuzzlesweek #raffle #entertowingiveaway #horseracing #harnessracing #thoroughbred #standardbred #games #puzzlesofinstagram #giveaways
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National Game and Puzzle Week is Thanksgiving week! Monday (11/22/21) through Saturday (11/27/21) we are giving away over $500 worth of horse racing puzzles and games! The more entries you make, the greater chance you have of winning! We will announce the winner each day's winner at 7:30 pm, and the packages will be sent out the following Monday.

ENTER HERE: http://ow.ly/i7v250GTj8U

Good luck!

#gamesandpuzzlesweek #raffle #entertowingiveaway #horseracing #harnessracing #thoroughbred #standardbred #games #puzzlesofinstagram
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He's all grown up!!

The PA Bred American Pharoah foal from our 2019 foal cam makes his debut later today at Aqueduct!

Look for #6 Sul Pharoah in today's 5th race at Aqueduct. Post time for race 5 is 1:45pm.
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