Then and Now

Playfair

Ever since a human managed to shinny up on the back of a horse, someone wanted to race. Endurance racing, flat track, harness racing and steeplechase racing became popular in many different cultures around the world.


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Image One Photo Archive The Spokesman-Review Image Two Jesse Tinsley The Spokesman-Review

Ever since a human managed to shinny up on the back of a horse, someone wanted to race. Endurance racing, flat track, harness racing and steeplechase racing became popular in many different cultures around the world. The first track in the United States was built in New York in the 1665 and more than 300 were built over the next 200-plus years. In the 1890s, a wave of anti-gambling sentiment shook the horseracing establishment and bookmaking was banned and pari-mutuel betting was adopted. That meant that all bets were placed in a pool and after the wagering entity removed a commission, the remaining pool of money is shared among winners. Spokane’s Playfair was a modest operation compared to glamorous venues in California, Kentucky and New York. But it provided many hours of enjoyment to Spokanites who drove under the railroad tracks off Main and Altamont. The track struggled through the 1990s, partly because of the proliferation of card rooms, bingo halls, Indian casinos and the lottery. The last race was in December of 2000.


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