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Discovering the Rich History of Freehold Raceway

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Discovering the Rich History of Freehold Raceway

Freehold Raceway is a horse-racing track in New Jersey that first opened in 1853 and has a long and rich history. Monmouth County Agricultural Society rented a ten-acre plot of land and later purchased more land. On this land, an annual fair with harness racing took place. The society was responsible for several improvements, building a half-mile track and grandstand. Unfortunately, it ran into financial trouble and the track lay idle until1896.

Freehold Driving and Harry Gould

In 1896, the Freehold Driving Club leased the track. It held many trotting meetings and trials. In 1902, it was incorporated and bought the grounds. After its disbanding and the creation of the Freehold Driving Association, the first concern was to rebuild the old, lopsided track.

In 1936, Harry Gould, a sportsman and businessman, bought the track and began repairing and improving it. He eventually sold his shares because he didn’t want to own the track if gambling was to take place there. It reopened as the Freehold Trotting Association. Freehold then became the first pari-mutuel track in New Jersey with 24 betting booths and cashier cages.

With New Jersey’s rich history in horse racing and betting, it’s no wonder that NJ sports betting is flourishing today. It’s possible to bet on horse racing at one of the many race tracks or at an online sportsbook.

Many different owners 

Fred Fatzler, a NJ contractor, was one of the many different owners of the track. He ran it until 1943 when racing halted due to World War 2. In 1960, Fred Fatzler sold it to Bernard and Harold Sampson. In 1965, the Sampsons sold the track to Gibraltar Pari-Mutuel of Canada.

In 1984, the Wilmot family from New York bought Freehold Raceway from Gibraltar Pari-Mutuel. Kenneth Fischer bought Freehold Raceway from Wilmorite Inc. in 1990 and sold it again in 1994. He was the first harness horse racer to own the track in 30 years.


Freehold Raceway reconstructed the track to allow eight horses to start behind the starting gate. In 1970, the grandstand was enclosed, and Freehold could offer year-round racing. Many of the top horses ever to race, like Albatross and Cardigan Bay, competed at Freehold. Major stakes races such as the Helen Dancer Memorial would attract the best three-year-old pacers.

A fire destroys the grandstand

In 1984, the grandstand and dining room were destroyed by an electrical fire. Tents were used for some time until repairs were done. When the Wilmot Family from New York bought the Freehold Raceway, Wilmorite, Inc., it began building a new grandstand and dining room. It was also responsible for opening a mall across from the track. Horse racing enthusiasts could take a resort vacation and see the races, shop at the mall, etc.

Current owners

In 1999, Penn Gaming and Greenwood Racing bought the Freehold Raceway and still own it today. Freehold Raceway is not only the oldest but one of the most popular horse racing tracks in the US for fast races in the harness racing space. The Cane Pace was a popular harness race that took place at Freehold Raceway from 1998 to 2010. A notable race that still takes place at Freehold Raceway every year is the Dexter Cup Final.