Sarasota History Alive 37th Edition

By | November 18, 2012

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Opening of Dog Race Track was Big News in Sarasota

Dog Track OpeningWhen the above photo was taken by Sarasota photographer W.E. Burnell in the late 1940s, the Sarasota Kennel Club had been racing dogs for more than twenty years. In the fall of 1925 a number of men associated with real estate development helped organize the club and build the track. Shortly before the first race, the sports writer for the Sarasota Herald wrote in florid terms about the “palatial grandstand,” the last minute flurry of activity to ready the quarter-mile sand oval track and the expectation of the largest sporting crowd in Sarasota’s history. Parking for hundreds of cars and three ticket windows were highlighted to underscore the capability of the facility to handle a large crowd.
The kennels housed 165 dogs, including “some of the fastest canine racers in the county.”

The opening races were on the evening of Tuesday, February 9, 1926. Two of the nine races were of special interest. The Burns Cup race was made possible by the donation of a loving cup prize by Owen Burns III, well-known Sarasotan.
The Special Sweepstakes matched dogs of three local owners, who paraded their dogs before the audience prior to the race. Badly Blended, Jr., owned by Mrs. E.H. Price, won, competing the 5/16-mile race ahead of Sarasota Boy, owned by Owen Burns, and Oakland Hook, owned by Hal Yohe, one of the Kennel Club’s vice presidents.

For the rest of the season, the Herald covered the races. Dogs, racing results, and frequent commentary shared the front page of the sports section with stories about the New York Giants in Sarasota for Spring Training and the golfing exploits of Bobby Jones. Names of frequently winning racers, such as Happy Hooligan, who won the featured race the second evening, became common for racing fans. Unfortunately for local dog owners, Sarasota Boy, Badly blended, and Oakland Hook did not compile winning records that first year. Other dogs, however, set track records for both racing times and financial returns on the fans’ “investments.”

Soon after the opening of the Kennel Club, A.S. Skinner, another Kennel Club vice president, advertised prize building lots in Kennel Club Park. Located south of the club on Bradenton Road, the subdivision contained lots measuring 50 feet by 100 feet, the prices for which began at $770. Skinner appealed to potential buyers by advertising the rural area as only a few minutes from Five Points (in downtown Sarasota), on a busy thoroughfare, and nest to high-class developments. The development ultimately failed, and Village Gardens has since been built on the site.

Fortunately for dog racing fans, the promotion and management of the Kennel Club were more successful than those of the subdivision with the same name. Greyhounds still race at the club’s track off Old Bradenton Road, but it is no longer a rural setting.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!

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