Sheepshead Bay Race Track
The Sheepshead Bay Race Track was developed on the eastern portion of Coney Island, Brooklyn, by the Coney Island Jockey Club under the leadership of Leonard Jerome and William K. Vanderbilt. The track’s construction was completed in 1880, and the track’s steeplechase course was subsequently replaced by a one-mile turf course that ran along the inside of the then main dirt track in 1886.
Sheepshead Bay was likely the most prominent of the old Brooklyn tracks. Despite its popularity, like other New York tracks, it suffered after the 1908 passage of the state’s Hart-Agnew anti-gambling bill. Although the gambling ban was lifted five years later, Sheepshead Bay never recovered.
For ongoing viability, Sheepshead was converted to an automotive race track, the Sheepshead Bay Speedway Corporation. The facility hosted automotive race events from 1915 to 1918, but it was later auctioned by divided plots for real estate development in 1923. A New York Times article from August 26, 1923, lamented, “Doomed by the march of development and the demand for home sites, the last of the four famous race tracks established years ago in South Brooklyn will be sold under the auctioneer’s hammer.”1
In addition to the Spindrift Stakes, the Coney Island Derby, and the Long Island Handicap, Sheepshead Bay was home to the Suburban Handicap, first run in June of 1884, and the Futurity Stakes, inaugurated on Labor Day, 1888, as the then richest race in the country’s history. When Sheepshead Bay closed, turf racing in America was not resumed until the 1930s at Hialeah.
1. New York Times. (August 26, 1923). “Last of Brooklyn’s Once Famous Race Tracks Succumbs to March of Housing Development.”
Liebman, B. (2009). “There Used to be a New York Racetrack There: But Where Was It?” Retrieved on October 18, 2016, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256004063_There_Used_to_Be_a_New_York_Racetrack_There_But_Where_was_it
New York Racing Association. (2016). “Sheepshead Bay.” Retrieved on October 10, 2016, from https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/stakes-schedule/sheepshead-bay/
Vosburgh, W.S. (1922). Racing in America, 1866-1921. New York: Priv. Print., The Jockey Club.