Jump to: navigation, search

Sheepshead Bay Race Track

Sheepshead Bay Race Track
Location Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn,
New York, United States
Owned by Coney Island Jockey Club
Date opened June 19, 1880[1]
Course type Flat & Steeplechase
Notable Races
Advance Stakes
Autumn Cup Handicap
Century Handicap
Commonwealth Handicap
Coney Island Derby
Futurity Stakes
Long Island Handicap
Sheepshead Bay Handicap
Spindrift Stakes
Suburban Handicap
Tidal Stakes

Beacon Steeplechase
Independence Steeplechase

Sheepshead Bay Race Track was an American Thoroughbred horse racing facility built on the site of the Coney Island Jockey Club at Sheepshead Bay, New York. Old maps and railroad track diagrams for the Manhattan Beach Branch of the LIRR showing the spur that served both the club and the racetrack indicates the entrance to the club was located on the east side of Ocean Avenue between Avenues X and Y.[2][3]



The racetrack was built by a group of prominent businessmen from the New York City area who formed the Coney Island Jockey Club in 1879. Led by Leonard Jerome and the track's President, William Kissam Vanderbilt, the Club held seasonal race cards at nearby Prospect Park fairgrounds until construction of the new race course was completed in 1880.[4]

In its first year of operations, the new Sheepshead Bay track hosted a 1½ mile match race between two of the top horses racing at the time in the United States. The Dwyer Brothers' Luke Blackburn was ridden by Jim McLaughlin, and Pierre Lorillard's Uncas was ridden by jockey Costello. Luke Blackburn won by twenty lengths.[5]

Sheepshead Bay had both a dirt and a turf course.

Principle backers:

  • Leonard Jerome
  • James G. K. Lawrence
  • A. Wright Sanford

The new Sheepshead Bay Race Track's premier event was the Suburban Handicap, first run on June 10, 1884 and conceived by James G. K. Lawrence, who became the track's president.[6] Four years later Lawrence would also create the Futurity Stakes, first run on Labor Day in 1888. At the time, the Futurity was the richest race ever run in the United States.[7][8] Today, both the Suburban and the Futurity are ongoing Graded stakes races held at the Belmont Park racetrack in Elmont on Long Island. The Lawrence Realization Stakes was named for James G. K. Lawrence.

First turf course in the United States

On June 10, 1886 the Coney Island Jockey Club opened the first turf racecourse in the United States. The Club replaced the Sheepshead Bay steeplechase course with a one mile turf course, built inside the existing main dirt track. The Green Grass Stakes was the first race on turf and was run as part of the June 10 opening day program. A race for three-year-old horses, it was contested at a distance of a mile and an eighth and was won by Emory & Cotton's Dry Monopole in a time of 157.00.[9]

Demise of horse racing

In 1908, the administration of Governor Charles Evans Hughes signed into law the Hart-Agnew bill that effectively banned all racetrack betting in New York State. A 1910 amendment to the legislation added further restrictions that meant by 1911 all racetracks in the state ceased operations. Although the ban was lifted for the 1913 racing season, by then it was too late for the Sheepshead Bay Race Track, which was sold to the Sheepshead Bay Speedway Corporation.

Sheepshead Bay Speedway Corporation

File:Sheepshead Bay Race Track 1917.jpg
Auto racing at the Sheepshead Bay track c. 1919

The new owner converted the horse track to a wooden board automobile race track. Several auto races were held from October 1915, through September 1919, including the Astor Cup Race and the Harkness Trophy Race. The Sheepshead Bay Speedway Corporation ran into financial difficulties following the death of its majority shareholder Harry Harkness in January 1919. The property was sold in 1923 for residential real estate development.[10] No trace of the racetrack can be found today.

In 1959, the Sheepshead Bay Handicap was named in honor of the old racetrack, and first run at the now-defunct Jamaica Racetrack in Jamaica, New York. It, too, is currently held at Belmont Park.

See also defunct New York race tracks


  1. "Coney Island Jockey Club; Programme of the June Races". The New York Times: p. 8. June 14, 1880. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A07E1DA1630EE3ABC4C52DFB066838B699FDE. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  2. "The New York and Manhattan Beach Railway - Part Five". arrts-arrchives.com. http://arrts-arrchives.com/mbbr5.html. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  3. United States Geological Survey. Brooklyn, NY Quadrangle [map], 1:62,500, 15 Minute Series (Topographic). (1898) Section SW. Retrieved 2010-02-13.
  4. "Coney Island Jockey Club; Programme for the September Meeting". The New York Times: p. 3. September 3, 1879. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9C06E5DE103EE73BBC4B53DFBF668382669FDE. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  5. "Upon by Luke Blackburn; The Great Match at Sheepshead Bay". The New York Times: p. 2. September 15, 1880. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9D03E2D7143FEE3ABC4D52DFBF66838B699FDE. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  6. "The Coney Island Jockey Club; Entries for the Foam Stakes and the Suburban Handicap". The New York Times: p. 2. June 10, 1884. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9D05E6D8163AEF33A25753C1A9609C94659FD7CF. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  7. "Coney Island Jockey Club". The New York Times: p. 2. July 26, 1887. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9402E3DB1430E633A25755C2A9619C94669FD7CF. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  8. "Initial Futurity Stakes; Twenty-One Starters Probable for the Rich Prize". The New York Times: p. 8. September 3, 1888. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9503E1DE1F38E033A25750C0A96F9C94699FD7CF. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  9. "Troubadour; The Son of Lisbon and Glenluine Wins the Suburban". Brooklyn Daily Eagle: p. 1. June 11, 1886. http://eagle.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=BEagle&BaseHref=BEG/1886/06/11&PageLabelPrint=&EntityId=Ar00103&ViewMode=GIF&GZ=T. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  10. "Last of Brooklyn's Once Famous Race Tracks Succumbs to March of Housing Development". The New York Times: p. RE2. August 26, 1923. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F00A11F73F5416738DDDAF0A94D0405B838EF1D3. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 

External links

Coordinates: Template:Coord/input/dms


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...