Racing
In the Beginning - Part 1
A Time To Remember
Part 2 - Part 3

.
.

My sincere thanks to The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America 
by William Robertson.
 Permission to excerpt their material 
that those new to the sport of racing 
may re-live the moment is greatly appreciated.

.
Although New York is acknowledged to have been the original center of organized racing, there is little question that, from the very beginning, so far as racing in general is concerned, or the degree of interest manifested there in, Virginia was the hotbed of the sport. Its early settlers mainly were of the Cavalier tradition. Its economy was mostly agrarian and  its mores reflected the outdoor life. As has been noted. early racing in Virginia was among quarter horses along narrow, straight paths out from the forest for an abbreviated distance. These races were immensely popular with the pioneers and are described by Hervey as follows:
.
     . . .  the race path was a narrow strip  of ground, about fifteen to twenty feet wide, and from a quarter of a mile to 500 yards long, perfectly straight and with room at one end for the two opponents to get off and at the other to pull up --this being no great space, as one of the most indispensable attributes of the quarter horse was his ability to whirl and get off at top speed in two strides and to come to a stop from a full flight with equal facility . . .
              The start of the quarter race was supposed to be a standing one, but the two contenders, rearing and circling at the scratch, in reality took off flying. The 'jockeying' for the advantage here was one of the great sights of the sport. Both horses and riders were trained to maneuver in the most spectacular way and the outcome often depended upon which got the best of the break and was able to seize the preferred strip of the path. If well matched the two would run the entire course closely locked, which led to the clams of crossing, justling and fouling often brought up in the suits-at-law that were so frequently the aftermath.
              The firing of a pistol, blast of a trumpet, or tap of a drum was the signal to break and the exacting and ungrateful office of the starter then as now was one only to be entrusted to a man thoroughly two-fisted and well able to handle the situation. At the coming-out place the endman was stationed to decide the winner . . . . .
.
Quarter horses of exceptional speed, like the side-show strong man of later centuries, would travel from settlement to settlement challenging all comers, and occasionally such a horse of awesome reputation would be smuggled under disguise into strange territory for a betting coup.
.
Tobacco, which was the mainstay of Virginia's economy and which soon came to be regarded as legal tender, has the faculty of depleting the soil in which it grows and rendering the land useless for other crops. As cleared land thus became available, so-called race fields made their appearance. These were, as the name implies, nothing more than abandoned crop fields, some of which still were furrowed, their shape and gradient governed by the local terrain. However, they did foreshadow what was to become the standard American race course, an ellipse or circle approximately one mile in circumference.
.
With the coming of such race courses, crude though they were, the quarter horse pushed on to the frontier, where his talents were more appreciated. Virginian's, closely allied to the British by blood and by inclination, took more and more to distance racing. 

 .

As early as 1691 . . . .
Part 2