11″ x 14″
pigment print on archival Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth 100% cotton paper
This is an image I made last winter, on a very cold day at the Izaak Walton Preserve .
There are lakes, woodlands, sand dunes, native prairie, and wetlands within the
193 acre oasis, 35 miles outside of Chicago.
Once while walking my dog Woody, I met a sketchy dude there who told me that there used to be
a popular horse racing track just north of the preserve – a few yards from where we stood.
I was a little skeptical, but it turns out he was right.
According to my sources: In 1883, a group of about 500 Chicagoans, led by General Philip “Little Phil”
Sheridan, banded together to create the Washington Park Jockey Club.
Selecting a location at 61st and Cottage Grove, the Club opened and operated the
Washington Park Race Track, valued at $150,000 the following year.
The club claimed it be “the Midwest’s preeminent track.”
One third of the millionaires of Chicago at the time belonged to the Washington Park Jockey Club.
The track ran into difficulties though, when Hempstead Washburne was elected Mayor of Chicago in 1892.
In 1893 he began a gambling reform campaign, which included a goal of closing all
race tracks in Chicago.
In 1926, a second Washington Park Race Track opened up in south suburban Homewood.
The new Washington Park Race Track was located west of Halsted Street just outside of Homewood village bounds.
Washington Park Race Track’s grandstand burned on the night of
February 5, 1977. None of the 1200 horses housed in the barns there were harmed, but
it put the track out of business.
Apparently one of the most famous match races in modern American equine history
was run there on Aug. 31, 1955
That was when Eddie Arcaro and his horse Nashua, went head to head against legendary
jockey Willie Shoemaker and his horse Swaps, in a $100,000 two-horse race to determine
which was the fastest horse.
Arcaro and Nashua won the race.
“Once a guy starts wearing silk pajamas it’s hard to get up early.” – Eddie Arcaro