And the Racing Season Begins…

Jan 4th 2012 05:30 pm |

Happy New Year! I’m sure you are like me and looking forward to another year of racing. While racing doesn’t have an official season like other major sports, January is the unofficial opening of the season. This idea is not new, over a century ago, before year round racing in New York, the beginning of the calendar year brought announcements about racing dates at the metropolitan tracks and weight assignments for a few of the nation’s biggest handicap races.  And, of course, January brought talk about which horses in training would make their mark during the upcoming year.

On 28 January 1907, the New York Tribune reported racing dates and published the first “official rating” for the best horses expecting to run in 1907. It mentions legends like the race mare Artful, who was ranked on par with the top ranked male, Burgomaster. Salvidere, the early favorite among the new 3-year-olds of 1907, was ranked three pounds better then Peter Pan. Peter Pan would win that year’s Belmont Stakes and later be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame — Salvidere would fade from memory.

The Tribune article also reported weight assignments by legendary handicapper Walter Vosburgh for the Brighton Handicap that wouldn’t be run until July.  Many of the big handicap races of the era — like the Brighton, Brooklyn, and Suburban — closed in January and February.  The subsequent announcement of weight assignments for each race’s entries made them a source of discussion and a “great medium” for future betting.

The article concludes with a quote that fans from any generation would agree. One can imagine a race fan reading the New York Tribune article on a cold day in 1907 and nodding in agreement with this assessment from the unknown reporter:

Now that the racing dates for the coming season in the metropolitan district have been announced, racing folks are beginning to grow impatient for the day when the bugle will call the horses to the post for the first race. There is now something definite to look forward to, and plans can even be made for seeing the big fixtures, about which so much interest centres.  Read the full article at the Library of Congress

While changes in racing have brought the bugle call year round, January still brings a feeling of anticipation that has been shared by racing fans for over a century. The conversations one hundred years ago about the merits of Salvidere and Peter Pan, likely sounded similar to the same conversations today about Hansen and Union Rags.

In spite of its problems, horse racing is still the best game in town and one with a history deeper than any other American sport. I look forward to another year following the current racing scene while continuing to dig into the sport’s ever fascinating past.


Approval of Weights, Brighton Handicap Allotments Amount to Official Rating,” New York Tribune, 28 January 1907

I have a new feature I’m writing for Hello Race Fans called “The Month Ahead.”  It’s a preview of the coming month in racing — read the January edition here.

In case you missed it, I published my pick for the 2011 Race of the Year in a post last month.

In 2012, I will change things up a bit with Colins Ghost. Instead of publishing one long weekly article, I will be posting more often with shorter historical pieces and links at least once a week.  I’ll be publishing longer pieces once or twice a month.  My goal is to make the site better! This new schedule will give me more time to research and write in-depth articles while still providing a steady flow of interesting content.

Also a change in 2012, I will be sending out a newsletter on a monthly basis instead of weekly with links to Colin’s Ghost content for that month.  If you would like more frequent updates to your email, you can be notified when new posts are added by signing up using the box at the top of this page under the heading “Receive Email Updates” or you can email me your address ( and I will sign you up!

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