The Kingsbridge Plot

Amusements and Sports,
page 11 of 12

At these races, given under martial rule, some rather crooked proceedings were taken to recruit the field and keep up the interest; and good horses for many miles around were watched carefully by their owners; and when a gentleman attending the races viewed with surprised and indignant recognition his own horse which had been stolen from him, he promptly applied for restitution to Mr. Cornell, of Brooklyn, who had entered the horse; and when the race was finished, the horse was returned to its rightful owner.

Other localities developed race-courses. “At Captain Tim Cornell’s Poles, on Hempstead Plains,” Eclipse and Sturdy Beggar ran for “Fifty Joes” on March 14, 1781. In 1783 Eclipse and Young Slow and Easy ran for a purse of two hundred guineas. At Far Rockaway, in 1786, Jacob Hicks, “from a wish to gratify sportsmen,” laid out a mile course and offered prizes where no “trussing, jostling, or foul play were countenanced; if detected, the rider will be pronounced distanced.”

On Manhattan Island were several other race-courses. In 1742, a race was run on the Church Farm, just a stone’s throw northwest of where the Astor House now stands. I have seen many notices of races on this Church Farm which was the valuable Trinity Church property. In October, 1726, a Subscription Plate of twenty pounds was run for “on the Course at New York.” The horses were entered with Francis Child on Fresh Water Hill. Entrance fee was half a pis-tole. Admission to the public, sixpence each. In the 1750 October runs, Mr. Lewis Morris, Jr.’s horse won on the Church Farm course. The chief racing stables in the province of New York were those of Mr. Morris and of Mr. James De Lancey. The former won a reputation with American Childers; the latter with his imported horse Lath. The De Lancey stables were the most costly ones in the north; their colors were seen on every course for ten years previous to the Revolution, and they were patrons of all English sports. A famous horse of James De Lancey’s was True Briton. It is told of this horse that Oliver De Lancey would jump him back and forth from a standstill over a five-barred gate.


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