History Of The Fredericton Raceway
May 1816 – The first recorded meet in Fredericton took place. The races started at a large pine tree near Phyllis Creek and finished at Clark’s Corner (on King or Brunswick Street).
1820’s – A field located on a large area of Saunder’s land – south of George Street and west of York Street – and used as a recreational area, held meets where saddle racing and such contests took place before a formal track was ever laid out. This became known as the Fredericton Race Course.
February 19, 1827 – Members of the New Brunswick Agricultural and Emigrant Society (also known as the York County Agricultural Society) voted in favor of holding a Provincial Cattle Show on the grounds of the Fredericton Race Course on October 9 of that year thus laying the foundation for a lasting relationship between the Fredericton Exhibition and horse racing.
1863 – As plans for building the famous Exhibition Palace are being completed, the York County Agricultural Society gave Fredericton a one-mile racetrack for trotting races, a course for saddle horses and a grandstand to hold 500 spectators.
1870’s – Harness racing first introduced to Fredericton.
September 15, 1886 When it seemed certain that a railway would be built across the Old Racecourse and it would have to be given up, the York County Trotting Association subscribed enough money to lease about 20 acres of O’Dell Property and began work on a half-mile track.
September 28, 1887 – The newly formed Fredericton Trotting Park Association (Fredericton Raceway) opened at its present location. Harness racing becomes a major player in sporting circles.
1890’s – During this time an annual tradition at Christmas was a race from Government House and down Brunswick or King Street. Owners routinely exercised their horses on those streets and University Avenue. In 1891 five half-mile tracks were laid out and in January 1895 a track ran behind City Hall to the Mouth of the Nashwaak.
September 23, 1903 – First 2:20 pacing mile recorded at Fredericton by Ituna in 2:19 1/4.
July 28, 1920 – First 2:10 pacing mile recorded at Fredericton by Peter Farren in 2:09 1/4.
1920 – One of the greatest horses ever bred and trained in Fredericton, Bill Sharon, wins his first ever free-for-all race at his home track by taking two of three heats in 2:11 1/4 and 2:12 1/4. He was later sold to New York interests for $25,000 and went on to race on the Grand Circuit, taking a record of 2:04 ¼.
1922 – Fredericton Exhibition Ltd. takes over the Fredericton Park Association and assumed responsibility for the racetrack.
July 19, 1923 – During this time driving clubs flourished and community owned horses were a civic boast. Four “community” horses, John R. Braden (Presque Isle, Maine), Roy Grattan (Caribou, Maine), Dan Hedgewood (Woodstock) and Jackson Gratton (Houlton, Maine) met in the $1,000 Barker House free-for-all in Fredericton. John R. Braden was a straight winner in 2:05 3/4, 2:06 1/4 and 2:06 1/2, a Canadian three-heat record for half mile tracks.
September 20, 1923 – One of the greatest moments in Fredericton Raceway’s rich history came when ‘as great a trio of harness performers ever assembled on one track at the same time’ came to Fredericton for a $3,000 purse. Single G, Margaret Dillon and Sir Roch, the fastest stallion, mare and gelding of the time performed in front of over 10,000 people. The result was Single G winning both heats in 2:04 3/4 and 2:05. The mile in 2:04 3/4 was a Maritime record while the times of 2:04 3/4 and 2:05 established a two-heat record for the Dominion of Canada. Fredericton Raceway was known as “Canada’s Fastest Half-Mile Track” at the time.
1924 – Horse racing in Fredericton reached an all-time high in popularity and local race fans decided to buy a horse of their own. With money raised by popular subscription, a group headed by City Hotel operator Bert Lint, purchased Chesley H. Searcy from Ohio. In his first race under new management, he equaled the world record for four-year-olds on a half-mile track in Houlton, Maine.
September 22, 1927 – Ruby P equaled the track record of 2:04 3/4 in the final of four heats. She won three of those heats, also winning in 2:07 1/4 and 2:06 1/4. Bessie McKlyo won the other heat in 2:05. The four heats were a Canadian half-mile track record and very possibly a world record.
September 13, 1934 – Peter Pokey and driver Henry Clukey trotted in 2:07, a Maritime trotting record.
September 15, 1937 – WALTER DALE, a bay gelding from the Sullivan and Mawhinney Stables of Machias, Maine establishes a Canadian win-race record for half-mile tracks of 2:02 1/2 – the Canadian record stood for 18 years – in the second heat of a junior free-for-all. Henry Clukey drove him. Fractions for the historic mile were 30 1/2, 1:01 ½, 1:31 ½, 2:02 1/2. Walter Dale also set the track record of 2:05 in St. Stephen two weeks earlier – a standard that would stand forever.
1940-1946 – During the war years there was no racing at Fredericton. The track was used as a training ground for soldiers, known as the New Brunswick Training Center.
July 5, 1954 – First racing under lights.
July 28, 1959 – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip visited Fredericton Raceway and saw their first harness race. Abbeland won a special $1,000 race in 2:07 2/5.
June 14, 1979 – It took over 40 years to break WALTER DALE’s track record but Daily Special, a roan horse owned by David Kileel and driven by Mike Downey, became the first horse to beat “the Ghost of WALTER DALE,” lowering the track record to 2:02 1/5.
July 19, 1982 – Sub 2:00 speed was ushered into Maritime horse racing when Clipper Seelster wired the field in 1:59.3. the first time in history that the 2:00 barrier was broken in the Maritimes. Willard (The Whiz) Carr drove Clipper Seelster to victory.
June 26, 1993 – Shannon Commander won the Walter Dale Memorial and established the current track record of 1:55, which, at the time, was the fastest win over a half-mile track in the Maritimes. He was owned by Ashley and Joan Sloat.