Oriental Park Racetrack
Oriental Park Racetrack in Marianao, Havana, Cuba was a Thoroughbred horse racing facility operated during the winter months by the Havana-American Jockey Club of Cuba. Founded in 1915, Oriental Park was the only race track in Cuba in the days before Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.
In its heyday, American owners brought their horses to race at Oriental Park Racetrack during the winter months, and future Hall of Fame jockeys Laverne Fator rode there in 1918, as did Alfred Robertson in the mid 1920s and the Cuban-born Avelino Gomez. With American racetracks closed, jockey Joe Culmone, contract rider for Brookmeade Stable, won three races at Oriental Park on December 31, 1950, tying Bill Shoemaker for most wins that year by an American jockey. Shoemaker won on the same day at Agua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico.
Many American celebrities on vacation or who were performing at the nearby Tropicana Club visited fashionable Oriental Park Racetrack, as did Europeans such as tennis star Suzanne Lenglen. Prominent hotelier John McEntee Bowman, owner of Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York and president of Bowman-Biltmore Hotels Corp., which counted the Seville-Biltmore Hotel in Havana as part of its hotel properties, served as president of the Havana-American Jockey Club, as did Harry D. ("Curly") Brown, owner of Arlington Park in Chicago.
In his book Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life, author Robert Lacey wrote that in 1937, gangster Meyer Lansky gained control of the racetrack and casino.
At Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Florida there is a wall in its Hall of Fame dedicated to the famous Cuban horsemen who raced at Oriental Park.
- Lacey, Robert Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life (1993) Random House ISBN 978-0517105368