Freestate Raceway

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Freestate Raceway
Owner Dick Hutchinson
(1948–unknown)
Dick Hutchingson, Jr.
(unknown–1976)
Greta, Joseph Shamy
(1976–1979)
Frank DeFrancis
(1980–1989)
Type Horse racing
Genre(s) Standardbred
Seating type Grandstand
Construction
Built 1948
Opened 1948
Closed 1990
Demolished 1990

Freestate Raceway (originally Laurel Raceway from 1948–1979) was a horse racing track in Maryland. It opened in 1948 and closed in 1990.

History[edit]

Harness racing

Laurel: 1947–1979[edit]

In September 1947, a meeting was held about bringing a harness racetrack to Maryland, specifically Prince George's County and Howard County.[1] Rosecroft Raceway was chosen for the Prince George's County license, and Freestate was chosen for the Howard County one.[2] Freestate was originally called Laurel Raceway from its opening to 1979. In 1948, Freestate Raceway began its first horse racing season. It was founded by Dick Hutchinson.[3] Freestate was the first track to allow pari-mutuel wagering on a harness race.[4] According to the United States Trotting Association, the racetrack broke several records in its inaugural season, including opening night attendance (12,000), total mutual handle ($3,703,949), and highest attendance (16,000).[5] The owners of Freestate decided to increae the purse money, the number of seats, and several other things to greatly improve the racetrack for the 1949 season.[5]

Operations at the track ended in 1975, followed by a fire that destroyed the clubhouse and grandstand in March 1976.[6] Hutchingson's son, Dick Hutchingson, Jr., sold the racetrack to Greta and Joseph Shamy in April 1976.[7] Later, the Vice President of the track Mike Brown was indicted for arson at the clubhouse.[8] The racetrack was estimated to be in $6 million in debt in 1979, and in the same year, Joseph Shamy was arrested in 1979 for "raiding the track's treasury to pay personal debts."[7] Shamy was convicted of racketeering and embezzling $1.2 million from the track which defaulted on a $4.5 million loan from the National Bank of Washington and payments to riders.[9]

Freestate: 1980–1990[edit]

The following year Frank DeFrancis purchased the racetrack from National Bank of Washington.[10][11] The first thing DeFrancis did was change the name to Freestate Raceway.[7] Before Freestates first meet under DeFrancis, he did a lot of work to track, including fixing up the grandstand, creating a driver's lounge, and promoting under the slogan "Where Fun Comes in First".[10] After losing money for the first few years, DeFrancis persuaded the Maryland General Assembly to lower the tax on the track's handle.[12] Starting in 1982, Freestate Raceway began to host the Potomac Stakes, Maryland's most successful race. Each time this race happened, the attendance and handle rose dramatically; in 1984, a record $1,094,054 was wagered on the night of that race.[13] In his first six years of operations, Freestate's average attendance increased from 4,477 to 5,453.[14] In 1988, Roosevelt Raceway, which hosted the Messenger Stakes, closed operations, and the race way given to Freestate for the remainder of Freestate's history.[15] In 1989, DeFrancis died, and Freestate was sold to become an industrial park the following year.[16] The park is a 320,000-square-foot shopping center with a grocery store and an adjacent Carmax dealership.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Harness Race Hearing Set". The Baltimore Sun. September 11, 1947. p. 11. 
  2. ^ "Rosecroft Harness Race Season Opens Thursday". The Baltimore Sun. May 22, 1949. p. S6. 
  3. ^ Austin, Dale (July 19, 1981). "Freestate Races to the Front in Maryland Trotting". The Baltimore Sun. p. C14. 
  4. ^ "Richard Hutchison, 69, Founder, Former Owner of Laurel Raceway". The Washington Post. August 28, 1987. p. B6. 
  5. ^ a b "Laurel Raceway – Freestate Raceway". Mi-Harness.net. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Fire Destroys Track Buildings". The Washington Post. 2 March 1976. 
  7. ^ a b c Trilling, Michael (June 22, 1980). "Freestate Harness Starts Up". The Washington Post. p. E14. 
  8. ^ "Md. Jury Indicts Ex-Executive for Racetrack Arson". Washington Post. 1 September 1976. 
  9. ^ "Laurel Harness Dates Revoked". The Washington Post. 19 December 1979. 
  10. ^ a b Johnson, Ted (May 8, 1980). "Freestate at Laurel Prepares for Opener". Harness Horse. Retrieved June 3, 2012. 
  11. ^ Marrapese, Nancy (August 20, 1989). "Frank DeFrancis Dies at 62". Boston Globe. p. 76. 
  12. ^ Fowler, Glenn (August 20, 1989). "Frank J. DeFrancis is Dead at 62; Frank J. DeFrancis Is Dead at 62; Lawyer and Horse-Racing Leader". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  13. ^ Nowakowski, Jack (July 21, 1990). "Rich Potomac Makes Debut at Rosecroft". The Washington Post. p. D9. 
  14. ^ "Freestate Raceway (Harness) Laurel, Maryland" (PDF) (Press release). Freestate Raceway. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Messenger to Md". The Washington Post. October 22, 1988. p. D9. 
  16. ^ Rezendes, Michael (September 6, 1989). "Freestate Raceway Is Sold for Planned Industrial Park". The Washington Post. p. D1. 
  17. ^ Nelson, Erik (January 12, 1992). "Raceway Rezoned for Neighborhood Shopping Center". The Baltimore Sun. p. 4. 

Coordinates: 39°7′44″N 76°49′15″W / 39.12889°N 76.82083°W / 39.12889; -76.82083