At the races

It took dynamite to bring Shenny down

It took dynamite to bring Shenny down

June 18, 2006|by LARRY YANOS

And the walls came tumbling down.

The once majestic Shenandoah Downs Racetrack was closed for good this past Wednesday when dynamite was detonated in the structure, causing the antiquated facility to collapse.

From its inception in May 1959 to its final race in 1978, it gained many friends. It was the first night thoroughbred racetrack in the United States.

"It was a grand old track. The patrons loved it," said Richard (Dickie) Moore, the director of racing at Charles Town Races & Slots. "It was actually built to be a harness track - that's why it was 5/8th of a mile instead of 3 quarters. A group from New York owned it at the time but could not get licensing approval from the state racing commission so they went to thoroughbreds instead of harness horses."


Moore was employed at Shenandoah Downs from 1964 until its closing and remembers some great racing, in addition to the rose bushes surrounding the track and the water fountain which greeted the fans at the front entrance.

"It was a beautiful racetrack, 20 years ahead of its time," Moore said. "It closed in 1975 but re-opened for one meet in '78 when Charles Town was facing some renovations."

The racetracks were owned by two separate groups at the time, and Moore says Charles Town and Shenandoah Downs would hold alternate meets.

The two racetracks were eventually owned by Kenton Corp. And it was decided, from a business standpoint, to conduct thoroughbred racing at Charles Town only because of its bigger facility and expanded racetrack surface.

Veteran horse racing official Joe Servis fondly remembers Shenandoah Downs.

As a jockey, he won the track's first race and finished the evening with three trips to the winner's circle.

"A wonderful racetrack, banked well and designed well," the Charles Town resident said. "They ran 3 1/2 furlongs back in those days and there were some world records set. Owners and trainers loved to bring their speed horses to Shenny. They came from all over."

Servis says he can still remember general manager Bob Leavitt welding the walkway so stewards could get to their position.

"Leavitt was a great promoter," Servis said. "Folks would come to the track, enjoy themselves, and come back."

Racing dates

The Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association have agreed to racing dates for the balance of 2006 and the entire 2007 campaign.

The dates were approved last week at the monthly Maryland Racing Commission meeting.

In addition to the winter, spring and fall stands, the 2006 schedule will now include an eight-day mini-meet at Laurel Park from Aug. 16-25 with twilight racing (3:30 p.m. post time) on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday cards, bringing the total of live racing days for the year to 184.

The 2007 racing schedule will also consist of 184 live days at Laurel Park and Pimlico.

Winter Meeting: Laurel Park (Jan. 1-April 15)

Spring Meeting: Pimlico (April 19-June 9)

Summer Meeting: Laurel Park (Aug.11-24)

Fall Meeting: Laurel Park (Sept. 5-Dec. 29)

The commission also approved the stakes schedule for the 2006 fall meeting, which begins at Laurel on Sept. 4.

The 73-day stand is headlined by the 21st annual Maryland Million (Oct. 14), a 12-race stakes program for Maryland sired horses, and the Fall Festival of Racing (Nov. 25), featuring the Grade I Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and seven other added money races.

The stand will feature 43 stakes races for $4.725 million.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at


The Maryland Jockey Club concluded its spring meet last Saturday, posting total wagering figures which are nearly 5 percent higher than the same period a year ago - despite eight fewer live days conducted in 2006.

The average daily handle was up over 26 percent to nearly $7 million. The money bet on Pimlico from outside Maryland (export) increased more than 40 perent from $3.9 million to $5.4 million per day.

The marquee event of the meet, the Preakness Stakes, was a major success as a record crowd of 118,402 packed the historic Baltimore track on May 20, the largest crowd to witness a sporting event in the state. Attendance figures have now topped six-figures in seven of the last eight years, including six straight.

Preakness day wagering finished at more than $87.5 million, the third largest in the 131-year history of the event. A pool of $56.4 million was bet on the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

Six of the greatest jockeys ever to ride in and win the Kentucky Derby were at Churchill Downs in Louisville on Saturday to join the daylong celebration of "Stephen Foster Super Saturday," a spectacular day of racing with six stakes events.

The riders on hand: Jerry Bailey (winner aboard Sea Hero in 1993 and Grindstone in 1996); Don Brumfield (Kauai King, 1996); Angel Cordero Jr. (Cannonade, 1974, Bold Forbes, 1976 and Spend A Buck, 1985); Pat Day (Lil E. Tee, 1992); Chris McCarron (Alysheba, 1987 and Go for Gin, 1994); and Jacinto Vasquez (Foolish Pleasure, 1975 and Genuine Risk, 1980).

Trainer Noble Threewitt, 95, is back in the winner's circle.

The veteran conditioner, who sent out a winner the first year Hollywood Park opened in 1938, won a race last Thursday at Santa Anita Park with Lockback - a 3-year-old filly that posted a $33 upset in her second start in a $62,500 maiden claiming race.

Threewitt, believed to be the oldest trainer to win a race at Hollywood, scored his first victory at the Inglewood, Calif., racetrack since 2002 and raised his career total there to 496, seventh on the all-time Hollywood Park list.

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