Timeline: Highlights of 100 years at Laurel Park

October 17, 2011

• Oct. 2, 1911, Laurel Park opened for racing under the direction of the Laurel Four County Fair. Three years later, New York City grocery entrepreneur James Butler purchased the track and made renowned promoter Matt Winn general manager. Winn is known for developing the Kentucky Derby into America's greatest horse race.

• On Oct. 18, 1917, Hourless defeated Omar Khayyam in a historic match race. Hourless had won the Belmont Stakes that year and Omar Khayyam the Kentucky Derby.

• Seabiscuit prepped for his famous match race with War Admiral at Laurel Park on Oct. 15, 1938, finishing second in the Laurel Stakes. He went on to defeat the 1937 Triple Crown-winning son of Man o' War two weeks later in the Pimlico Special.

• In 1952, the track was in the hands of John D. Schapiro, and introduced the International, a 1 ½-mile turf race that became one of the premier events for thoroughbreds worldwide. The track's proximity to Washington made the International a magnet for leading politicians, foreign dignitaries and celebrities.

• Kelso, the only five-time Horse of the Year, won the 1964 Washington D.C. International in his fourth attempt, beating rival Gun Bow. Kelso finished second in his three previous tries in the International, all by less than a length.

• In December 1984, Frank J. De Francis and his partners purchased the racetrack and launched a renaissance, opening the luxurious $2 million Sports Palace a year later. The room provided state-of-the-art wagering technology, computerized handicapping tools and a video racing library in a plush, casino-like environment.

• In 1986, the first Maryland Million, created by the famed ABC broadcaster Jim McKay, was staged at Laurel Park. The event, modeled after the Breeders' Cup, revolutionized the way state breeding industries showcased their best runners.

• Jockey Kent Desormeaux broke Chris McCarron's single-year mark for victories when he rode his 547th winner for the year, Gilten, at Laurel Park on Nov. 30, 1989. Desormeaux finished the year with 598 victories, a record that still stands.

• Beginning in 2004, Magna Entertainment Corp., which purchased Laurel Park from the De Francis family, invested approximately $30 million to widen and lengthen the dirt and turf courses.

• On Nov. 19, 2005, 2-year-old Barbaro set a turf course record, running 1-1/16 in 1:40.17 in the Laurel Futurity. The following year, the colt won the Kentucky Derby and then broke down in his next start in the Preakness Stakes.

— compiled from Maryland Jockey Club sources

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