Racing at Timonium, 2010

Sep 8th 2010 08:48 am |

The Grandstand at Timonium

You can’t help but feel upbeat when you walk into the grandstand at Timonium. Especially when you make the mistake, as I did, of parking on the wrong side of the fairgrounds and having to walk through the heart of the Maryland State Fair to reach the race track. Sure, if you have been to a carnival in the last 30 or so years, it is all very familiar. However, this jovial atmosphere as a precursor to a day at the track is positively unique.

As I settled in for my day at the races at Timonium, I understood why the fair racing circuit has burned such positive memories on racing fans. As Frank Vespe commented on my post last week, “I think racing has lost something with the demise of the fair circuits.”  After spending the day at the last fair track east of the Mississippi on Saturday, I agree.  A day at Timonium isn’t just another day at the track and those who have attended fair races still in operation or now forgotten will likely tell you the same thing.

I have always sensed a camaraderie among the people when visiting Maryland tracks. At a place like Laurel, where the crowds are always thin, the dividing line between those working and those watching seems non-existent. It’s no surprise then, that this same atmosphere pervaded Timonium — whether it be the friendly conversations between patrons and outriders; jockeys stopping to speak with friends and family between races; or the trainers and owners who made no pretense of their position. Sure, the quality of the racing is lacking but that doesn’t matter to the people there.

One of my favorite memories of the day was witnessing a groom, after winning one of the many bottom level claiming races on the day, greeting her horse as if he had won the Kentucky Derby. Within the Maryland racing community, a win at Timonium for owner, trainer, jockey, or a groom is a moment to celebrate, when the troubles with Maryland racing and the world can be forgotten.

The racing is limited to only two weekends annually at Timonium during the State Fair. It runs concurrently with Saratoga and Del Mar and the frantic end of the summer, but if you have the opportunity to spend a day there, I would highly recommend it. While racing at Timonium has a tradition over a century in the making, there is no telling when it might be relegated to nothing but a memory.

Here is my day at Timonium in pictures:

Looking from the corner of the grandstand towards the top of the Timonium stretch and the Maryland State fairgrounds.

The Timonium walking ring with the first turn of the track visible on the left. The barn area and housing facilities for backstretch workers can be seen in the background.

Jockey statue in the center of the walking ring - chained down to keep him from walking off.

Railbirds watching the horses in the walking ring prior to the 8th race.

Under the well-maintained and naturally lit grandstand, the track offers an assortment of decent food including the typical hot dogs and pizza but also tacos and (of course) crab cakes.

Winner of the 2nd race -- Verdict No -- and his connections have their picture taken.

At least one guy had a winning ticket on Marciella, the 27 to 1 shot who the 5th race.

RainbowInthestorm hits the wire first in the 6th race.

Spectators at Timonium are separated from the horses by a single fence. In fact, when horses act up in the post parade, people back-up. Here the crowd watches the field enter the track for the ninth race.

I saw many of the outriders walk their horses close by the fence to interact with patrons, one of the many unique scenes you'll find when spending an afternoon at Timonium.

Back next week with more history…


Filed in thoroughbred racing history,Timonium race track

4 Responses to “Racing at Timonium, 2010”

  1. Another nice piece! When I lived and worked in Oregon fair tracks were the summer thing to do everywhere outside of Portland.

    My venture to the Tillamook County Fair & Race Meet provided some of my best Oregon racing memories. Little money, devoted horsemen and women who – not unlike what you noted – thought they had won the Derby.

    That’s what I love most about the game. The people, the horses, the stories.

  2. Steve M. says:

    What day were you at Timonium? I was there Saturday the 28th (Travers Day) and last Sunday the 5th. Love the track and been going every year for about the last ten years. Also like hitting Hightops next to the fairgrounds for some beverages after the races.

    Hope you cashed some tickets. All the best!

  3. TJC says:


    I was at Timonium the same day you were there. Parking on the North (far) side of the Fair Grounds was no mistake; literally all the parking by the track (south) side was taken up first thing in the morning by horse people. It’s always that way. The only alternative to parking northside and walking through the Fair is to park downtown and take the Light Rail to Timonium.

  4. […] pal Kevin Martin checked out the Big T a couple of years ago (here), and we agreed then that racing had lost something valuable with the demise of the fair meets.  […]