Monday, August 13, 2001

Ask a Stupid Question

Parks part of racing history

By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Question: Why do they call race courses “parks” and “downs?” Why not just race course? Or horse track? Instead of River Downs and Pompano Park, it could be River Horse Track and Pompano Horse Track.

        Answer: Wellsir, says John Engelhardt, public relations director at River Downs and somewhat of a horse race historian, it all has to do with the early days of racing.

        “A downs is a large, low-lying, grassy area surrounded by hills. In the early days of racing in England and Ireland, they needed to race at a place where the public could gather and have easy sight lines. So the public would sit or stand on hillsides and the horses would run on the "downs.'

        “As for parks, in the early days of racing in this country, races were generally held in public parks. Here in Cincinnati, it was Chester Park, site of the first Ohio Derby.

        “Even though racing eventually moved to more formal tracks, the names "downs' and "parks' stuck.”
        If you have a stupid question, send it to Ask a Stupid Question, Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax: 768-8330; e-mail:


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