Monday, November 5, 2018

Roosevelt Raceway

Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury, was the first track in the nation to run harness horses.

The harness racing facility opened on September 2, 1940. George Washington Vanderbilt III, George Preston Marshall and Eddie Rickenbacker raised money to build a new home for the dormant auto race the Vanderbilt Cup, which had last been run in 1916. Vanderbilt Cup winner George Robertson was hired to oversee construction of the facility. The land was acquired by lease of the land that was "Unit 2" of the Roosevelt Field airport, and was the site of the runway from which Charles Lindbergh took off in the Spirit of St. Louis. The original raceway was twisty and bumpy, not quite suited to the big-bore big-BHP racecars of the day, and a number of the drivers did not like the track. The 1937 layout was faster, with fewer corners and longer straights. Despite these adaptations, no GP motor car races were held there afterwards.

The property was leased in 1939 by a group of investors (Old Country Trotting Association) led by George Morton Levy with the intention of opening a harness racing track. It was the original home of the Messenger Stakes, part of the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers. It was also the first track to use the now universal "mobile starting gate".

The site of Roosevelt Raceway is part of the Hempstead Plains, located in an unincorporated area of the Town of Hempstead. It is located near where the first English Governor of New York, Richard Nicolls, established the "Newmarket Course", the first horse racing track in North America (and the first organized sport of any kind) in the territory that would become the United States, in 1664

It closed in July, 1988 due to dwindling crowds, lured away by offtrack betting and new competition from the Meadowlands race track in East Rutherford, N.J., that forced the decision to close, the track owner said.


Hevesi, Dennis. “Roosevelt Raceway Closes Down; Losses and Competition Are Cited.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 July 1988,

“Roosevelt Raceway.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Sept. 2018,

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