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"The Picket" winning the 1904 Brooklyn Handicap at Gravesend Race Track

Gravesend Race Track at Gravesend on Coney Island, New York was a Thoroughbred horse racing facility built by the Brooklyn Jockey Club as a result of the backing of the wealthy racing stable owners, the Dwyer Brothers.[1] Philip J. Dwyer was the controlling shareholder of the Brooklyn Jockey Club, and served as its president.

Opened on August 26, 1886, its first executive board consisted of:[2]

The facility covered an area which extended from McDonald Avenue (then Gravesend Avenue) to Ocean Parkway, and from Kings Highway to Avenue U.[3] This land had previously been occupied by the Prospect Park Fair Grounds, a slightly smaller and far more modest race course which had been used for harness racing. The facility was enclosed by a twelve foot wooden fence and boasted an ornate two-story "double decker" grand stand of yellow Georgia pine with a bar and restaurant built into its brick base. A spur was created that allowed trains running along the Prospect Park & Coney Island railroad line line to stop within the facility and discharge passengers at a small station that lead directly to the grand stand via a covered walkway. At the southern end of the facility stood the offices of the Brooklyn Jockey Club, as well as the dressing rooms for the jockeys. The northern end was occupied by the betting pavilion and carriage sheds. The eastern side, which ran along the tree-lined boulevard of Ocean Parkway (where impromtu training races often took place), was occupied by the clubhouse.

During its time, the racetrack executive included superintendent Ben Brush in whose honor the future U.S. Racing Hall of Fame horse Ben Brush was named. Among the major graded stakes races launched at the track were the Astoria Stakes, Brooklyn Handicap, Brooklyn Derby, Tremont Stakes, and the Gazelle Handicap. For the fifteen years from 1894 through 1908, Gravesend Race Track hosted one of the American Classic Races, the Preakness Stakes.[4]

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. Although the law was repealed in time to resume racing in 1913, the Gravesend Race Track never reopened and the land was eventually sold to real-estate developers in 1920.[1]

Today, the annual Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack honors the former racing facility.

See also defunct New York race tracks


  1. ^ a b Hale, Ron (1997). "New York Tracks - A Short History". Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  2. ^ "Sport Among the Racers; New Track of the Brooklyn Jockey Club". New York Times: p. 8. 1886-08-23. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  3. ^ United States Geological Survey. Brooklyn, NY Quadrangle [map], 1:62,500, 15 Minute Series (Topographic). (1891) Section SW. Retrieved on 2010-02-13.
  4. ^ "Preakness Stakes Early History". Retrieved 2010-01-16. 

Coordinates: 40°36′04″N 73°58′10″W / 40.60111°N 73.96944°W / 40.60111; -73.96944

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