Amusements and Sports,
page 9 of 12
Even a clergyman sent out by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts testified to the beauty of Salisbury Plain, calling it “an even delightsome plain, most sweet and pleasant” Delightsome it certainly proved to lovers of horse-racing.
On February 24, 1721, a race was held on this plain which attracted much attention. The winning horse was owned by Samuel Bayard. The race was given by “the inhabitants of Queens County on Nassau Island.” The name of the course had by this time been changed to Newmarket. In 1764 a new course was laid out; and in 1804 the racing moved to a field east of the Old Court House, and in 1821 it was transferred to the Union Course on the western border of Jamaica. The story of this course is familiar to sportsmen.
Frequent newspaper notices call attention to the races held at this Hempstead Newmarket. From the “New York Postboy” of June 4, 1750, I quote:—
“On Friday last there was a great horse race on Hempstead Plains which engaged the attention of so many of the city of New York that upwards of seventy chairs and chaises were carried over Brooklyn Ferry the day before, besides a far greater number of horses. The number of horses on the plains exceeded, it is thought, one thousand.”
In 1764 we find the Macaroni Club offering prizes of £100 and £50. At those races Mr. James De Lancey’s bay horse Lath won. On September 28, 1769, the same horse Lath won a £100 race in Philadelphia.
In October, 1770, Jacob Hiltzheimer, a well-known lover and breeder of horses in Philadelphia, went to the races on Hempstead Plains, and lodged at a “public house” in Jamaica, with various other gentlemen, —lovers of races. Two purses of £50 were given, but Mr. Hiltzheimer’s chestnut horse Regulus did not win.
A London racing-book of 1776 says of this Hempstead course:—
“These plains were celebrated for their races throughout all the Colonies and even in England. They were held twice a year for a silver cup, to which the gentry of New England and New York resorted.”