Why should Balmoral Park be on every horse race enthusiast’s bucket list?

How many people go to Illinois for a holiday? Well, not many, unless they have family living there. However, things are changing fast with Balmoral Park rapidly making its prominence felt on the radar of tourists and equine lovers. It is an equestrian facility in Crete, Illinois. Saying just that about the facility does little justice to its rich history and tradition.

What’s the founding history of the Balmoral facility?

Horse racing began in Balmoral Park in 1926. Colonel Matt J. Winn was the pioneer behind the founding and construction of the Lincoln Fields.  It soon became a shining star in the world of thoroughbred racing in the US. However, due to World War II restrictions, the Lincoln Fields could no longer remain operational beyond 1942. Between 1948 and 1951, Washington Park in Homewood became the site for all Lincoln Field meetings.

Lincoln fields became Balmoral Park after Benjamin Lindheimer established the Balmoral Jockey Club in 1955. His adoptive daughter, Marjorie Lindheimer Everett consolidated the Arlington Park and Washington Park as divisions and founded a new group – the Chicago Thoroughbred Enterprise (CTE). In 1967, new owners, William S. Miller, and his partners bought the Balmoral Park. They converted the iconic thoroughbred track to half-mile tracks for the harness racing we have seen on the tracks up until recently.

How did the heydays of balmoral park start?

In 1988, the facility hosted the first World Driving Championship of North America. Over 14 countries participated in this championship which began drawing spectators, participants, and enthusiasts from all over the world. Today, you can find memoirs of the golden days at the Balmoral park galleries and souvenir shops. The tracks saw some of the best jockeys of all time including Jean Cruguet, Sandy Hawley, Pat Day, Julie Krone, Randy Romero, Jacinto Vasquez, and Ray Sibille.

How did harness racing begin at the facility?

It has a rich and fascinating history of thoroughbred racing. Along with the name of the park comes a list of well-known and high profile names like George Steinbrenner and Edward DeBartolo Sr. In 1991, after the state racing board took away the thoroughbred racing dates, this facility began hosting harness racing. That ushered a new tradition of harness racing in the south Crete, Illinois. After 1998 started the parks true golden era, once the Sportsman’s Park stopped harness racing. All major stakes shifted to the once-renowned Lincoln Fields giving birth to the “American National” and “Super Night” events.

When did the Balmoral Park finally reopen?

As a result of increased tax payments and other financial burdens, the authority was forced to close the historic race tracks at the end of 2015. In 2017, the establishment reopened after an extensive renovation as a horse show facility. It held its first horse show after a respite of almost two years under the ownership of HITS Inc.

It is an excellent site for equine lovers and horse race enthusiasts. It still has a stable that can accommodate 900 horses and a grandstand that can seat more than 71,000 spectators. The Balmoral Park is a surviving testimony of the glamorous days of horse racing in the northern US.

 

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