Long before the advent of motorsports, horse racing was a popular sport in the United States. There were numerous tracks around the country, with the very first being established in 1861. The sport became so popular that on May 20, 1873 a world-famous race dubbed ‘the great American horse race’ was held at Washington Park in New York City. More than 50,000 people turned out for the occasion, making it the largest mass gathering of its kind at that time.
Over a century later, the sport has mostly been overshadowed by car racing and the accompanying excitement it generates. However, in recent years, horse racing has seen a resurgence in popularity, and a number of race tracks have been built or converted to serve as a venue for horse racing enthusiasts. One such track is Afton Speedway in Maryland, which opened in 1974. It features a half-mile main strip and an eight-furlong backstretch. Together, the two make up what is widely regarded as one of the most scenic layouts in all of motorsports.
A Brief History Of Afton Speedway
Afton Speedway is owned by the County Government of Wicomico, Maryland and is operated by the Maryland Jockey Club. The track was originally built in 1873 in a wooded area near the village of North Baltimore. It was originally named ‘New York City’s Metropolitan Park’ (a reference to the fact that it is located across the Potomac River from the nation’s most populous city), but was later renamed Afton Park.
In the years that followed, the track was little more than a dirt-and-grass oval with a grandstand and pavilion. In more recent years, the area has seen several major renovations and improvements. Today, Afton Park is a modern track boasting a working, shaded grandstand, new asphalt track, hydrotherapy pool, and picnic area. It is most famous for hosting the prestigious ‘Maryland Derby,’ an event that has attracted some of the sport’s greatest names over the years.
One Of The Most Iconic Tracks In All Of Sports
When people think of Afton Park, they usually think of the Derby. However, that is not the only event that takes place there. Every week, the Maryland Jockey Club hosts another meet, which is open to the general public. Additionally, the track sometimes hosts special events, ranging from car shows to classic car meets to tractor pulls. Even when the track is not operating, it attracts visitors due to its rural location in a scenic area. Anyone who visits there will be impressed by the magnificent wooden track, which has stood the test of time and continues to attract visitors today as it has since 1873.
On that front, Wicomico County and the Maryland Jockey Club have truly done something special by preserving this slice of American history. It is rare to find a track that is this iconic and still standing from the mid-19th century. This is largely thanks to the efforts of Howard Alper and Peter Svidler, who played key roles in its restoration. The track also holds a special place in the hearts of many because it was the starting point for legendary jockey George Brennan, who went on to become the first African-American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Brennan and the track have had a special relationship since the early part of the 20th century. He would go on to become an integral part of a famous ‘Brennan’s Bronc’ stabled at the track in the 1950s, which helped him rack up major wins at the Derby and other prestigious events. Today, some of those steeds still live on at Afton Park, including ‘Cinnamon & Spice,’ who went on to become a champion polka-dot filly and the dam of ‘Tale of Two Grands,’ who won the 1997 Kentucky Derby.
A Mecca For All Motorcycle Enthusiasts
For motorcyclists, Afton Park is more than the sum of its parts. It is a destination that you make a point of visiting at least once in your life. This is mainly because it is one of the best places in the country to ride a motorcycle. This is due to the fact that the track has taken the time to ensure that the experience is as memorable as possible. Over the years, the track has added numerous features that help make the experience even more enjoyable. These include the setting up of multiple rows of seating, which allow for more people to sit down and enjoy the race. Additionally, the track has installed a wide variety of landscaping, which not only makes it more aesthetically pleasing but also helps to provide better traction for bikes and car tires alike.
For years, Afton Park was the only option for motorcyclists in the area. However, that has started to change, with other tracks around the country following suit and establishing themselves as destinations for motorcyclists too. The good news for those who love to ride is that Afton Park has taken the time to ensure that their attention to detail and ongoing improvements will allow for more people to experience what is arguably one of the greatest tracks in all of sports. It truly is a Mecca for all motorcyclists, especially given its location outside of Washington, D.C. (roughly 100 miles north of the nation’s capital).
What Is The Atmosphere Like At Afton Speedway?
The atmosphere at Afton Park is one of excitement and anticipation. This is especially the case during the Derby, when the entire community turns out to cheer on their beloved ponies. However, it is also present during weekly meetings and other special events, such as car shows and classic car meets. In addition, anyone who visits the track will be impressed by how quickly they develop a rapport with the grooms and jockeys, who all appear to be having a good time, despite the stressful nature of the job. This is mainly because of how genuinely kind and happy the people there appear to be.
However, let’s be honest, even when the track is not hosting an event, it still draws thousands of visitors thanks to its rural location in a scenic area. It also serves as a nice spot for families to come together and enjoy a day out. This is why it is important for Wicomico County and the Maryland Jockey Club to ensure that the track remains a popular destination. They have taken the time to make the most of their surroundings and ensure that every person who visits is able to have an experience they will enjoy for the rest of their lives.