Picture stories

Playfair: A history in photos

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

Thousands of fans pack the Playfair grandstand in 1936.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

An unknown thoroughbred prepares for his morning gallop in 1948.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Dan Pelle - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Colin Mulvany - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

A colorful field races into the stretch in 1992.


Colin Mulvany - The Spokesman-Review

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


Colin Mulvany - The Spokesman-Review

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


Colin Mulvany - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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


Colin Mulvany - The Spokesman-Review

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.


Photo Archive - The Spokesman-Review

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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