Capsule History of Freehold Raceway
DECEMBER 1853 - Monmouth County Agriculture Society was formed to hold an annual fair with harness racing in the Township of Freehold. Annual Membership fee would be $1.00 and one-time payment of $10 would permit a person to be a life member. It has been researched that racing was held at the same site as early as the 1830's.
1854 - Society rents a 10-acre plot of land from Hudson Bennett for a sum of $50 a year. That land is currently the site of Freehold Raceway. The first fair meet after expenses showed a balance of $286.06.
1858 - Society purchases 20 acres, including the original 10 acres for $3,000 from Col. W.D. Davis. In 1875 improvements at a cost of $983.70 were made and two years later the half-mile track and Grandstand were built at a cost of $1,650. One of the first polo matches ever held in the United States was played in 1884 during the fair week.
1863 - A trotter named George M. Patchen, the "Pride of Monmouth County", set the world record for trotting-under-saddle with a two-mile mark of 4:56 at age 14.
1888 - The Monmouth County Agriculture Society passed out of existence due to financial problems. The track was idle until 1896 when the Freehold Driving Club was formed.
DECEMBER 1895 - 52 local men held a meeting and formed the Freehold Driving Club, leasing the track for $174 a year. The club held frequent trotting meetings and trials on the track until 1902, when the Freehold Driving Club was incorporated and purchased the grounds for $4,500. At this time, a golf course was also developed on the grounds.
1909 - Freehold Driving Club was disbanded and the Freehold Driving Association was organized and incorporated. The first item on the agenda was rebuilding the old track, which was considerably lopsided and was believed to have kept many horsemen away from racing there.
The annual fair was the major racing activity for years with occasional races between local horsemen. In July of 1917, the first major meet was held at the track for five days with over $1,000 in purses.
1921 - Interest in trotting meets had waned and Joseph Donahay purchased the track for $10,000. In 1923 the grandstand was rebuilt in anticipation of an innovation that became a major problem. In that year the newly formed Freehold Driving Park offered both a week of trotting races and a week of running races. There had been a previous ruling outlawing racing from the early 1900's but the Freehold group had never listened to the ruling and because of poor publicity concerning the ruling, which trickled down to the racing fans, the yearly meets at Freehold started a downward trend.
1936 - Harry Gould, sportsman and woven label manufacturer from Park Ridge, NJ purchased the track and, along with his wife and son, began repairing and improving the track which reopened as the new Freehold Trotting Association on September 15, 1936.
1941 - Harry Gould said he was too much of a sportsman and did not wish to own the track if there was to be gambling and sold his shares. Freehold soon became the first pari-mutuel track in New Jersey with a 13-day meeting featuring betting machines and an infield tote board that cost a total of $35,000. There were 24 betting booths and 15 cashier's cages. The track had been sold to Fred Fatzler, a Newark, NJ contractor from Maplewood, NJ for $65,000. He ran the track until 1943 when racing was halted during World War II, and resumed on July 22, 1944 by the Freehold Trotting Association.
SEPTEMBER 12, 1946 - Freehold starts 24-day pari-mutuel meeting with a record crowd of 4,000 fans who wagered $78,873 on 10 races. The meet ended with more than $1,423,657 wagered over the 24 days.
1960 - Fred Fatzler sells Freehold Raceway to Harold and Bernard Sampson of Milwaukee for a reported $5,000,000. After racing steadily for nearly 14 years, slowly increasing the number of racing days each season, Freehold grew in popularity, featuring the best drivers and horses in the sport. On August 11, 1962 a record crowd of 13,206 patrons wagered $758,719. The meet ended that year with total wagering at a record $25,152,981.
1965 - Gibraltar Pari-Mutuel of Canada buys Freehold Raceway from Harold and Bernard Sampson for a reported $8,000.000.
1967 - Freehold Raceway reconstructs the racetrack to allow for eight horses to start behind the starting gate instead of just six horses with two trailers as Freehold enters the modern age of racing.
1970 - The grandstand was enclosed so that Freehold could offer year-round racing featuring such outstanding drivers as Stanley Dancer, William Haughton and Herve Filion. Many of the top horses ever to race including Albatross, Cardigan Bay, Su Mac Lad and a host of other world champion performers, competed at Freehold. Major stakes races, like the James B. Dancer and Helen Dancer Memorial, attracted the best three-year-old pacers in the nation every year.
MAY 4, 1984 - Freehold Raceway grandstand and dining room is destroyed by an early evening fire caused by an electrical short in an odds board.
JULY 29, 1984 - Racing resumes at Freehold under tents, featuring 19 nights of simulcast harness races from the Meadowlands. Racing concludes on September 30.
DECEMBER 31, 1984 - The Wilmot Family of Rochester, NY purchases Freehold Raceway and all of its attached acreage from Gibraltar Pari-Mutuel of Canada.
JULY 15, 1985 - Wilmorite, Inc. begins rebuilding the new grandstand and dining room at an estimated cost of over $12,000,000. Racing goes on under plastic "Bubbles" to extend the season to January 8, 1986, along with simulcasting from the Meadowlands at night.
OCTOBER 22, 1986 - Wilmot Family holds gala affair to mark the opening of the new Freehold Raceway facility.
AUGUST 1, 1990 - Wilmorite, Inc. opens the new Freehold Raceway Mall across the street from the track. Mall features its entire motif on harness racing.
SEPTEMBER 25, 1990 - Kenneth Fischer, owner of local Gaitway Farm in Englishtown, NJ, one of the finest training centers in the country, buys Freehold Raceway from Wilmorite, Inc. and becomes the first harness horse owner to own the track in 30 years.
DECEMBER 13, 1994 - International Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc., parent company of Garden State Park in Cherry Hill, NJ, announces that it has exercised an option to purchase Freehold Raceway for $23 million.
JANUARY 29, 1999 - Freehold Raceway is purchased for $46 million by Pennwood Racing. Pennwood is a partnership between Penn Gaming and Greenwood Racing.
APRIL 29, 2008 - Freehold Raceway opens New Jersey's third off-track wagering facility to the public - Favorites at Toms River.