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Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame

The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame is a museum and historic race track in Goshen, New York. The museum collects and preserves the history of harness racing and serves as a hall of fame for trotter horses. It is a Registered Historic Place and contributing property to the Church Park Historic District.

Orange County is the birthplace of Hambletonian 10, the ancestor of all American standardbred horses, and many of the early Hambletonian races were held in Goshen. Established in 1838, the neighboring Historic Track is a National Historic Landmark, the oldest horse track still in use in the United States. Stables still operate on the grounds and exhibition races are held annually. The museum opened in 1951, during Goshen's Hambletonian era.



File:Historic Track, Goshen, NY.jpg
The historic half-mile track, with grandstand and stables in background

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, races were held on two tracks in Goshen: the half-mile track, known alternately as Goshen Raceway and Orange County Driving Park, and a mile-long track called Good Time Park.

A largely unmaintained field for the first century of its existence, the area that would become Good Time Park was originally called Fiddler's Green. At the beginning of the 19th century it was a common meeting place for local races, training, and breeding. Use died out around 1820, and it was largely forgotten until 1899, when it was refurbished to be used to train trotters. Sports promoter and horse owner William H. Cane bought the land in 1926, named the new track Good Time Park, and began to hold races there. By 1927 it had become a Grand Circuit track, with a large stables and a 2,224-seat grandstand.[1]

File:Goshen 001.jpg
A historical marker stands at the entrance to the track.

The first Hambletonian in Goshen was held on August 27, 1930, and was broadcast on the radio by the Columbia Broadcasting Company. The victory purse of $58,859.00 was won, after three heats, by Tom Berry driving Hanover's Bertha.[2] The Hambletonian was held at Good Time Park for the next 26 years, with the exception of 1943, when wartime gas shortages caused it to be moved to Empire City Track in Yonkers.[3] After Cane's death in 1955, conflicts over the administration of the sport caused the race to be moved out of New York State, to DuQuoin, Illinois; the last Hambletonian was held at the track in 1956.[4] Good Time Park continued to host other races after the Hambletonian moved away, but it was finally closed by 1985. Although it has reverted to woods and fields, its unusual triangular shape is still visible from the air.

Stakes racing continued at the half-mile Goshen Raceway until the 1970s, when the track and museum gained historic landmark status. The State Fair-level races of the New York Sires Stakes continue to be held there, as well as exhibition races for Hall of Fame Weekend.[5]

Hall of Fame and museum

The half-timber building that houses the museum was built as a stable in 1838, It houses artwork by longtime former museum director Philip A. Pines and racing memorabilia dating back to the start of trotting. Exhibits include 1,500 paintings and sculptures, several thousand photographs, hundreds of drivers' uniforms, 50 sulkies, over 200 trophies, and a preserved stable which serves as a walk-through display case for racing equipment. The museum also maintains a research library with more than 4,000 books and videos on the sport of harness racing.[6] The Hall of Fame is contained within the museum.

The Hall of Fame inducts nominees under several categories, divided between those for horses and those for humans, including drivers, owners, and trainers. The three main categories are Living Persons, Living Horses, and Immortals. Winners from each category are announced on Hall of Fame Day, the first Sunday of each July.

Living persons

Living people are nominated for the Hall of Fame annually by the United States Harness Writers Association, based upon their "ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contribution to harness racing." All members with more than 10 years of membership are eligible to vote, and 75% support is needed for a nomination to pass. Winners receive a ring, and a statuette of each inductee is added to the Hall of Fame.[7]

Living horses

The museum maintains a nomination committee which compiles a list of five nominees per year to be voted on by all museum members. All horses are required to have been drug-free during their careers and to have been retired from the sport for at least five years. There is a category for race horses, another for stallions, and another for broodmares, each with its own criteria. Winners receive a plaque in the Hall of Fame, and a replica is presented to the current owner of each horse.[7]


Nominations of people and horses from times past are reviewed by a committee, recommendations are made to the board of trustees, and the board selects the winners. Inductees include horses like Greyhound and Victory Song and drivers such as Thomas S. Berry and Gladys F. Harriman. A number of the inductees were trainers, owners, breeders, and even sportswriters.[7]


  1. Rorty, E.; Wallace, F. (January 1957). "Good Times with Harness Racing At Good Time: Land O'Goshen Not Forgotten". Hoof Beats. 
  2. "1930 Hambletonian". Hambletonian Society. http://www.hambletonian.org/archives_hambo/h_1930.html. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  3. "1943 Hambletonian". Hambletonian Society. http://www.hambletonian.org/archives_hambo/h_1943.html. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  4. "1956 Hambletonian". Hambletonian Society. http://www.hambletonian.org/archives_hambo/h_1956.html. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  5. Manzi, J. (July 5, 2002). "That's a Raceway Wrap". Sullivan County Democrat. 
  6. "Historic Collection and Library Research Services". Harness Museum & Hall of Fame. http://www.harnessmuseum.com/Pages/Collections/collections.htm. Retrieved 2006-05-23. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Harness Racing Hall of Fame". Harness Museum & Hall of Fame. http://www.harnessmuseum.com/hofelections.htm. Retrieved 2009=09-01. 

External links


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