Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rich Hill was once on horse racing circuit

The following blog was taken from the May 26, 1983 Rich Hill Mining Review Wagon Wheels insert. The picture came from the book the "Town that Coal Built"

Rich Hill was once on horse racing circuit

by Mary Griffin

For this first installment I shall give you one of the milder types of amuse-ment. In the next installment I shall giveyou some of the rough stuff as well as some of the more cultural events.
At one time horse racing was an important event in Rich Hill. Great enthusiasm was shown by both partici­pants and spectators. Horsemen tra­veled for many miles to participate in races and win the big money.
In 1893-94 an association of towns formed the Blue Ribbon Circuit. They purchased a forty acre tract of land at the north east suburb of Rich Hill. This plot of land became the Rich Hill Fair Ground. Several buildings, pens, stalls and shelters were constructed to be used for pigs, poultry, horses and cows.
A one-half mile oval track was built to be used for races. Actually this track
was one of the best in the entire state. Many races were held featuring some of the best race stock in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas. There was a family named Spencer who lived at the Northeast corner of town. At one time the East (Prospect) Park was a part of Spencer land. Mr. Spencer bred, trained and sold race horses. His best known race horse was Grat. This great stallion set a world record of two minutes and two seconds. Grat ran and won the big money in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Hartford, Providence and twice at Boston and Lexington, Kentucky.
These races generated much enthu­siasm and furnished entertainment for many people. Other Rich Hill people had good race horses. Mr. William Colton had a race horse named Blondie Redwood that set a record of two minutes, eight seconds at Sedalia.
A tornado came through Rich Hill in the summer of 1898 and destroyed many of the buildings and shelters at the fair ground. There were twenty-five horses in training, but none were harmed. Repairs were quickly made and the races continued for a while. However, the Blue Ribbon Circuit disbanded in a short time and for a while Rich Hill had no fair.
By 1901 there was a renewed interest in racing, and Rich Hill became a part of the Short Shipment Racing Circuit of Southwest Missouri. Many of the races were held in connection with fairs. In 1901 the program scheduled eight weeks of continuous racing with $29,000 in stakes.
The races started in Quincy, Illinois, July 23-26, on to Columbia, Missouri, July 30 - August 2; followed by Holden fair, August 6-9; Harrisonville, August 13-16; Rich Hill Fair, August 20-23; Nevada Driving Club, August 27-30; Higginsville September 3-6; Sedalia State Fair, September 9-14.

Stakes were closed on June 15, 1901 and all horses had to be named and two percent paid. There was a special entry privilege providing that if the full entry fee of five percent were made at the time the entry was made, the nominator was allowed to enter two horses in one class or one horse in two classes.
A horse could win only one money in a race.
Stake race money was divided 50, 25, 15 and 10 percent.
An entrance fee of 5% of the purse, was charged; 2% to be paid at the time of entry and the other 3% on the first day of the race. An additional 5% of the stake was to be deducted from all money winners.
In addition to a stake race there was to be a Running Race with the following program:
1. Pony Race, fifteen hands and under, half mile dash $25.00
2. Running Race, half mile heats $75
3. Running Race, four and one half furlong dash - $50.00
4. Running Race, half mile heats $100.00
5. Running Race, five eights dash - $50
6. Running Race, Consolation four andone half furlong dash - $50.00
Entry fee, 10% of the purse. Entries closed at 8:00 p.m. the day before the race.
Money as to be divided 60%, 25% and 15%.
American Racing Rules governed un­less otherwise specified. A horse dis­tancing the field or having a walk over was to be entitled to first money only.

Jockeys had to weigh twenty minutes before the time set for the race in which they were to ride. When two or more horses were entered by the same owner, all or none must start. There had to be five to enter and three to start in every race. All horses entered had to start unless declared out by 10:00 a.m. the day of the race. The first bell called the horses to saddle and the second bell, five minutes later, called horses to post.

Owners, trainers, jockeys others who took care of the horses were to send the horses out on time or would be subject to fine.
To many people the races were the big drawing card for fairs, but there were also other events of interest. The great variety of canned food, jellies, cakes, breads and displays of crochet, hand made quilts, embroidery and many kinds of hand work were of special interest to women.
Prizes were given for the largest watermelon, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin and a variety of other garden produce. A blue ribbon was the pride of a display.

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