Northfield ParkNorthfield Park

History

EARLY YEARS

Racing at Sportsman's Park
No, that's not "Herbie, The Love Bug," in this photo from the early fifties. It's automobile racing at "Sportsman Park," which stood on the site occupied by Northfield Park today. .
Originally constructed in 1934, the track, then known as Sportsman Park, was intended as a greyhound track. When this plan failed, ownership changed and the focus was switched to midget car racing. After 20 years as a successful car racing facility, interest began to wane and in 1956, Sportsman Park was demolished to make way for what would eventually become one of the nation's premier harness racing tracks, Northfield Park.

The opening night card, on Friday, August 23, 1957 offered nine races with the first race a class D trot won by Bunter’s Boy in 2:12, driven by Bill Popfinger. The feature race, an invitational handicap pace for a purse of $3,000 was won by Jerry H in 2:04 and was driven by Jim Mace, the fastest mile of the evening. The track was founded by Walter Michael, shown below.

While Northfield Park is the only remaining commercial harness track in Northeast Ohio, originally it was the third track in a circuit that included Painesville Raceway to the north and nearby Grandview Raceway. Northfield was constructed and opened in 1957 by Grandview's owner, the late Walter J. Michael, who wanted to expand the racing season. Michael, owner of Pickwick Farms, Ohio's most prominent standardbred breeding farm for decades, also owned a stable of notable horses including Miss Gene Abbe, the equine star of the motion picture, "Home In Indiana." In 1972, the racetrack was purchased in part by Cleveland real estate magnate Carl Milstein who later leased the facility to outside operators.
Walter Michael, Founder
Carl Milstein 1924-1999

NORTHFIELD PARK TODAY

 
Brock Milstein
When Carl Milstein passed away, in the fall of 1999, his son, Brock (pictured), took over operation of the track. Along with Chief Operating Officer Tom Aldrich, the younger Milstein is solidly committed to making Northfield Park a track that emphasizes its live racing, while providing the most user-friendly atmosphere possible for simulcast patrons.

The track's leadership has continued an aggressive promotional program and extensive live-racing schedule— 220 days each year until 2005, when the Ohio State Racing Commission mandated a reduction to 204 cards, but back near the 220 mark again today—assuring Northfield Park fans a consistent racing schedule they can depend on. The track’s resilient horsemen went over 1,400 consecutive race cards – nearly seven years—without a cancellation due to weather or dispute, until a snowstorm on Monday, December 13, 2004 forced the track’s first cancellation since 1998.

The Battle of Lake Erie annually draws Northfield Park's largest crowd--nearly 10,000 people. The race features the best Free-For-All Pacers in North America chasing a $150,000 purse.

The track is a half-mile oval, with a Eurorail pylon configuration, which is much safer than a traditional hubrail. The stretch is 440 feet in length, standard for an oval of its size, and features a "passing lane" or open stretch.

About Time, a racing star of the 1960's, trained by Earl Bowman, is enshrined on the track's Wall of Fame. Owned and bred by Elbridge Moxley, he was one of 12 foals of the mare Jane Brewer to race at Northfield

 

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