The Buffalo Raceway is a renowned horse race venue known primarily for harness racing. James J. Dunnigan, a resident of Hamburg in New York was responsible for the opening of the raceway as far back as June 1942. This entrepreneur chose Hamburg’s Erie County Fairgrounds to be the location of his project, which he undertook after the State of New York approved a bill permitting harness racing under the pari-mutuel betting system.
The Fairgrounds contained a race track with a half mile extent as well as a grandstand and was a perfect site for the project, situated a mere 14 miles from the heart of Buffalo. From the start racing was very intense with typical close finishes. Vast crowds numbering up to 10,000 were frequently in attendance as residents of the area exhibited a positive response to this new sport. In the early years lack of sufficient numbers of local horses and horsemen caused appearances of competitors from areas as distant as California and Canada.
Even in these days a number of world records were established at the raceway in different categories. Notably Wee Laird an exceptional trotter matched the world record for the three quarter mile distance in 1944. Proximity, a trotting mare was a consistent winner during the 1940s.
The 1950s were an era of continued success for the raceway. Notably the Reynolds Tobacco group were persuaded to bring their 2 and 3 year old championship races to the oval, bringing the nation’s finest fillies and colts to the venue.
By the 1960s the course had established itself as a recognized harness racing venue, with a reputation as one of America’s top 10 tracks. While the success of the venue continued in the 1970s, the introduction of off-track betting caused a decline in crowd attendance.
In more recent times several additions and modifications have been made to maintain the course’s status as a premier racing venue. New barns have been created and the race track modified to ensure safe competition. With a number of cutting-edge developments the arena is set to maintain its prominence on the racing calendar.
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