(This is the second in a series of short posts about happenings in 1911. Many of the posts will be related to a contemporary event or racehorse, but others will simply be those that interest me. If readers have comments or ideas, I will happily consider including those in the series.)
A century ago, racing had reached a point of serious decline due to repeated injuries from restrictive legislation. Reformers with greater zeal than foresight had managed to push legislation through at the state level in many areas, including New York, that prohibited gambling.
This didn’t prohibit racehorses from galloping around courses, but it did cut off half the reason for running races, as well as the funding and financial incentive for competition at the track.
As a direct result of legislation intended to forcefully purify the country, racetracks closed, farms were sold, and thousands of racehorses were either shipped overseas or were sold for use in other jobs. The times required the daily use of horses in many areas of life in 1911, which was a good thing for racehorses otherwise without a purpose.
Following the earliest legislation in 1908, racing had begun contracting, and 1911 was generally the low point in most regions. In the Thoroughbred Record of Sept. 9, 1911, Algernon Daingerfield, the assistant secretary to the Jockey Club in New York, noted that because of these laws, a “death blow has been struck at the high-spirited Thoroughbred horse in America.”
It truly crippled the breed and breeders in America. Daingerfield also said that the number of Thoroughbreds foaled in the States had declined from 4,700 in the early years of the new century to a “bare thousand or less this year.”
The social and financial repercussions were serious, and one of the sure signs of a bad situation was the closure of the sales facility at Sheepshead Bay racetrack. The Thoroughbred Record of November 18 reported:
The Fasig-Tipton sales paddocks at Sheepshead Bay, where many of America’s famous racehorses have been sold, are being torn down. The land is owned by the Long Island Railroad Company, and Fasig-Tipton’s lease having expired, the property will be cut up into building lots. Samuel Rosenstein, a contractor, purchased the buildings, which will be used for lumber, for $1,500.
Had the sales company seen any solid indications of improvement in their business prospects, they would have moved to save their privileged spot in that location, but clearly they did not. For them and most others, the situation seemed very bleak and without likelihood of great improvement.
Does any of this sound familiar?