Rivers of Gold – excerpts: part 23

The anti-racing legislation in the US was born of a brand of wild west lawlessness: “In the later part of the 19th century the sport had grown so rapidly,” explains William Robertson, “and in such a helter-skelter fashion that it got out of hand.  Racetracks were popping up like dandelions all over the country and many of them tried to milk a good thing beyond reason.”

Rivers of Gold

In 1847 there were 314 tracks in the US and 43 in Canada.  Some operators were running races year round.  Horses were frequently pushed beyond their limits.  There was the fighting.  Often tracks operated in direct competition with neighbouring tracks all the while attempting to seduce bettors and horse owners.

Corruption and nefarious activities were rampant.  In the midst of the shenanigans there was “Big Ed” Corrigan, owner of Hawthorne Park in the Chicago area.  To eliminate the competition, Garfield Park, he instigated an all-out armed conflict.  It seems Corrigan managed to finagle the mayor of Chicago into the merits of cracking down on Garfield Park, which was in the city limits, and leave Corrigan’s Hawthorn alone.

On 6 September 1892 an army of several hundred Chicago police converged on Garfield Park.  During the ensuing raid the officers rounded up and arrested patrons, track officials, horsemen and jockeys, some of whom were loaded into the paddy wagons still wearing colourful racing silks.

Among the indignant patrons herded into wagons was James Brown, a former Texas sheriff, who presumably did not turn in his gun along with his badge when he retired.  IN the ensuing brouhaha Brown shot and killed 2 police officers before he was gunned down.  The gates to Garfield Park were never to reopen….”   to be continued

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