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History of the Hambletonian

 

The Hambletonian race was held in Goshen, “The Cradle of the Trotter,” from 1930 to 1956. The first four races were held in Syracuse and Lexington, KY until William H. Cane, owner of 1929 Hambletonian winner Walter Dear, nominated Good Time Park in Goshen to host the fifth Hambletonian.

The three-cornered one-mile track, called “Good Time Park,”  had hosted other events. Still, the harness racing industry was skeptical that Goshen could host a world-class event as the grandstand could only hold 2,200 spectators and the village had only 3,000 residents.

But Cane, a Goshen builder and sports promoter, attracted national radio broadcast coverage, newspaper reporters, magazine writers and newsreel producers. The first Hambletonian at Goshen played to an overflow crowd. As the years went on, grandstand additions had to be built to accommodate spectators.

According to the Hambletonian Society, “Goshen was the site of many classic races and unforgettable stories, beginning with the 1930 three-heat victory of Hanover’s Bertha, followed by The Marchioness’ subsequent four-heat triumph two years later. It was at Goshen that the great Greyhound swept from last to first to win his Hambletonian in 1935. When Rosalind won the 1936 race for her young owner “Gib” White, the wonderful story became the subject of the classic children’s book Born To Trot. The permanent perpetual trophy was established in 1939, a classic Revere Bowl on the tiered pedestal that is still used today. On more than one occasion Jimmy Cagney presented the trophy to the winners.”

“In ’45, hometown favorite Titan Hanover, starting from post position 12—in the middle of the second of three tiers — won in straight heats, and remains the only horse ever barred in the wagering.  Chestertown’s 1946 classic battle with Victory Song was started with the new Steve Phillips mobile gate, perhaps the most important innovation in the sport’s history. The race was broadcast on television. Hoot Mon provided the first 2:00 mile in Hambletonian history in ’47 and in the following year owner and amateur driver Harrison Hoyt won with Demon Hanover.”

Bill Cane died in 1956 and the Goshen era came to an end.

The last horse races were held at Good Time Park in the 1970s. The grandstand was taken down by the early 1980s and the track became overgrown. It is now an open field bordered on the east end by the Heritage Trail, which runners of the Hambletonian ® Marathon & Good Time Trotters Relay will pass by just after mile 25 (look to your left after the last water stop at the South Street crossing of the trail!).  Route 17M today crosses over what had been the southernmost portion of the old track.  The 3 sided track outline can still be seen today on aerial map views of Goshen.

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