Playfair: A history in photos

April 22, 2013 3:12 p.m.  •  1 comment

From 1935 to 2000, Playfair Race Course, established on the original Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds, entertained fans from throughout the region. From the starting gate to the stretch run, the sport of kings brought excitement and countless photo opportunities to three generations of racegoers and news photographers.

Related story: Playfair Commerce Park evolves from racetrack roots

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This sign greeted fans when Playfair opened on Aug. 30, 1935. The right fork led to the grandstand; the left fork to the barns.

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Jockeys watch the races from the second-story jockey’s room in 1935.

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Thousands of fans pack the Playfair grandstand in 1936.

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Miss Jacqueline Berties, hostess for the opening of the 1936 racing season, cuts the green and white ribbons across the track at the finish line to officially start the meet. Mayor Arthur Burch, right, and Robert Pence, secretary of the Spokane Fair and Racing Association, escorted the Miss Berties. Later, she crowned the winning horse after the Inaugural Handicap.

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The Spokane Derby queen and her attendants visit the judges stand.

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Fleet sprinter Radio Beam, which had developed into a top-notch distance horse for owner Mrs. George Adams, leads the field into the stretch on Derby Day in 1936.

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The Derby Queen and her court congratulate Can Ele, the winner of the 1936 Spokane Derby.

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There they go in 1937: Starting gate pioneer Clay Puett designed and built this open-stall gate for his use as the starter during Playfair’s first few seasons.

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Spokane Derby queen Lois Boutin, the 1939 Derby queen, poses with Joey, owned and trained by H.A. Bruns, after Joey and jockey Floyd McCormick won the thoroughbred classic.

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Exploded, ridden by veteran jockey George Burns, charges down the middle of the track to win the 1940 Spokane Derby. Joey, the 1939 winner, the dark horse on the rail, finished second in an attempt to repeat his previous victory.

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An unknown thoroughbred prepares for his morning gallop in 1948.

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With the vintage toteboard in the background, the field races past the judge’s stand in the opening race of Playfair’s 1948 season.

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An aerial view of Playfair in 1950. The track had been expanded to five furlongs in 1946, increasing it from half-a-mile and widening it. A piece of Ferris Field, home of the Spokane Indians, can be seen near the upper left.

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The thoroughbreds are off and running to begin a 33-day Playfair meet in 1950.

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A well-groomed infield and a fresh paint job greeted racing fans for the opening of another season on Sept. 4, 1959.

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Horse Camp, owned and trained by Cliff Roberts of Lewiston, heads for home with a big lead under jockey Don Richards on his way to victory in the Washington State Breeders Handicap, Sept. 20, 1964.

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Racing fans crowd the apron in front of the grandstand on opening day in 1966. The track’s new glass-enclosed Turf Club, which made it’s debut 1962, can be seen at the south end of the grandstand.

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Racing under the lights began on a trial basis in 1968. In 1970, Playfair became the first track in the West to offer regular night thoroughbred racing.

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Polished Jewel, with jockey Bob Dimma, takes a spectacular spill near the finish line in this 1969 Playfair race.

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Equine superstar Turbulator, with his ears pricked, and jockey Larry Pierce charge to victory in the 1970 Washington State Breeders Handicap.

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Revel Step, with leading jockey Jerry Taketa in the saddle, reaches the wire first in 1973 to complete a $622.70 daily double. Truly Katrina, a 40-1 longshot, won the first half of the double.

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Turbulator, conceded to be the greatest race horse in Spokane history, and co-owner Marguerite Crawford, in 1975. Crawford and her husband, Tom, owned Turbulator in partnership with Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Farnsworth.

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Bettors gather at pari-mutuel windows under the grandstand in 1977.

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Leading jockey Mike James and Black Mackee gallop out after the 2-year-old star won the $30,205 Spokane Futurity on Oct. 1, 1978.

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Dale Wright, a Playfair regular for more than two decades, rides Byalash to the finish line by the light of the moon one night in July 1980.

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A firefighter hoses down a stable-area fire at Playfair in 1983.

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This unique under-the-rail shot shows the horses turning into the backstretch on closing day in 1984.

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Spectacular Bean, center, ridden by Russell Kingrey, leads the field out of the gate in 1986.

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Jockey superstar Bill Shoemaker signs autographs for the crowd after he rallied Glamour Betty to win the feature race at the track’s 51st birthday party in 1987.

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At the top of the homestretch, Caps Favorite leads the way over Mackee Babee, the favorite.

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Waiting for another opening day, a stablehand watches horses work out in 1989.

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Bob Hahn checks his program while his son, Tyler, 2, watches the action on opening day in August 1990.

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A colorful field races into the stretch in 1992.

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Lane Rennaker reads the Daily Racing Form in the Playfair jockeys room on July 10, 1994.

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Lane Rennaker, left, and Akifumi Kato, both longtime Playfair standouts, await the call of “riders up” in the paddock in July 1994.

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Horses bolt from the starting gate in the second race on July 2, 1994.

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Jockey Vince Graffagnini pulls off his muddy goggles after a race at Playfair in 1997. His mount, Khaki Mangaki, finished out of the running.

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Jeff Stadtlander of Spokane leans out for a better look at the stretch turn in 1997. Carol Rasmussen, right, watches hopefully for her horse.

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Linda Leffel used to train 30 or 40 horses, but she was down to only eight in 1997, when uncertainty surrounded the track.

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Coincidently, when staff photographer Colin Mulvany went to the track for a story about the dangers of race riding, he photographed this horse catapulting its rider out of the starting gate.

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Ross Yearout’s 30-plus years as a Playfair Race Course employee, included the role of general manager in 2000. Yearout poses with the bust of Turbulator, which once stood in the track’s paddock.

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