Morris Park Racecourse
The Westchester Racing Association, under the leadership of majority shareholder, John Albert Morris, acquired 152 acres in 1888 on the outskirts of what was then referred to as Bear Swamp, and was later annexed into the Bronx, New York City. Morris Park was constructed to fill the anticipated void after the projected closing of nearby Jerome Park Racetrack. Jerome Park’s developer, Leonard W. Jerome, served as Morris Park’s president.
When the racecourse opened in August of 1889, it was touted as the “finest rack track in the world,”1 with a grandstand capacity of 15,000, a 1½ -mile track, its Eclipse track that ran diagonally across the main track on a ¾-mile straightaway, and 1,000-stall stables. Morris Park was accessible by horse and buggy and a new railroad line spur that brought fans to the track from the New York City boroughs and beyond.
Hall of Famer Isaac Murphy rode at Morris Park’s opening day in 1889, and the racecourse hosted both the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness in June of 1890. The Preakness was later restarted at Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island, but the Belmont Stakes continued to be held at Morris Park until it moved to the newly constructed Belmont Park on Long Island in 1905. In its brief 15-year history, Morris Park was also home to the Ladies Handicap, the Metropolitan Handicap, the Matron Stakes, and the Champagne Stakes. Additionally, Aqueduct’s Toboggan Handicap traces its roots to a six-furlong race on Morris Park’s Eclipse track, referred to as the “Toboggan Slide.”
Due to declining attendance and club memberships and the imminent opening of Belmont Park, the Westchester Racing Association elected to close Morris Park at the turn of the 20th century. It held its final day of races on October 15, 1904.
1. New York Times. (August 21, 1889). “Geraldine's New Record; Made Yesterday at the New Race Track. A Most Successful Opening Day at the Finest Race Track in the World."
Einstein College of Medicine. (2010). “Morris Park: From Horses and Planes to Racing Cars and Ultimately Medicine.” Retrieved on October 3, 2017, from http://www.einstein.yu.edu/features/stories/571/morris-park-from-horses-and-planes-to-racing-cars-and-ultimately-medicine/
Forgotten New York. (2006). “Morris Park, Bronx.” Retrieved on October 10, 2016, from: http://forgotten-ny.com/2006/08/morris-park-bronx/
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 Times. (May 12, 1889). “New West Chester Track; The Home of the New-York Jockey Club. Progress of the Work at the Track, Which Will Be the Finest Race Course in the World.”
New York Times. (October 16, 1904). “Record Was Broken at Morris Park’s Last Day; Artful Set a New World’s Mark for Six Furlongs Down the Hill.”