New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Harness racing

Bill Cane

Bill Cane (Harness racing.  Born, Jersey City, NJ, Aug. 5, 1874; died, Miami Beach, FL, Mar. 27, 1956.)  Following his father into the building trade, William Henry Cane also developed a passion for buying and driving trotting horses.  His avocation eventually became the main focus of Cane’s life.  His Good Time Stable in the Orange County town of Goshen, N.Y., became one of harness racing’s top winners on the Grand Circuit, helped by the training and driving of Walter Cox.  Cane won the Hambletonian with Walter Dear in 1929, starting a long association with the three-year-old trotting classic.  Cane, the premier trotting promoter of his time, defied skeptics by luring the Hambletonian to his Good Time Park in Goshen in 1930.  He turned the heat race into a national media event that drew large crowds to the tiny town an hour north of New York City.  After 27 years, the Hambletonian’s Goshen era ended after Cane’s death when the event was shifted to DuQuoin, Ill., in 1957.  Cane also headed the group that purchased the old Empire City thoroughbred track in Westchester and converted it to Yonkers Raceway in 1950.  The Cane Pace, part of the pacing Triple Crown, honors the memory of this influential figure in the sport’s history. – M.F.

John Campbell

John Campbell (Harness racing.  Born, Ailsa Craig, Ont., Apr. 8, 1955.)  Coming originally to The Meadowlands as a trainer-driver with a small stable, John D. Campbell emerged as one of the most successful drivers in the history of harness racing.  Campbell holds the sport’s record for purse earnings with just under $220 million, more than half of that earned at The Meadowlands, the highest-profile venue in harness racing.  There, he was dominant, with 16 driving titles from 1979-2001.  Campbell excels in million-dollar races, with a record 20 victories, including five in the famed Hambletonian for three-year-old trotters (1987 with Mack Lobell, 1988 with Armbro Goal, 1990 with Harmonious, 1995 with Tagliabue, and 1998 with Muscles Yankee).

August Belmont

August Belmont (Horse racing.  Born, Alzey, Prussia, Dec. 8, 1813; died, New York, NY, Nov. 24, 1890.)  From its opening in 1837, the private bank of August Belmont was a mainstay of the New York financial community.  Belmont also became the most important arbiter of manners and style in the City’s emerging social class.  But the statement by some biographers that he introduced thoroughbred racing to the U.S. is false.  Belmont helped revive interest in the sport and served as first president of the American Jockey Club, which built Jerome Park (in what is now The Bronx) in 1867.  He had no previous racing experience and was persuaded to take the post by another influential social figure, Leonard Jerome (later Sir Winston Churchill’s maternal grandfather), who was the major backer of the project.  Once involved, however, Belmont became a principal figure in New York racing, opening the original Nursery Stud on Long Island and helping found New Jersey’s Monmouth Park (1870).  After 1882, Belmont no longer raced his horses, but did remain active in the administrative side of the sport.  There is little doubt that his involvement added to the social cache of racing, but his biggest contribution was probably his son August II, who rescued the sport in New York by building Belmont Park (which he named for his father) in 1905.

Carmine Abbatiello

Carmine Abbatiello (Harness racing.  Born, Staten Island, NY, May 23, 1936.)  Harness racing’s second winningest all-time driver, Carmine Abbatiello won his 7,000th race on October 23, 1990, at Yonkers Raceway with a horse appropriately named “Right on Course.”  Abbatiello, a graduate of Staten Island’s Port Richmond High, went directly from high school into harness racing as an apprentice to older brother Anthony.  Eight years later, in 1964, Carmine opened his own stable.  In his first year out, Abbatiello won 104 races and purses worth $211,998.  As a native New Yorker, Abbatiello became one of the most popular of all sulky stars on the New York circuit and became the first City native to win a driving championship on local tracks.  He was the driving champion for six straight years (1978-83) at Yonkers Raceway, where, appropriately, he won his 7,000th race.  Abbatiello won driving titles at all of the New York area tracks, including the Meadowlands, Freehold, Monticello, the old Roosevelt Raceway and Yonkers.  His lifetime earnings exceed $50 million.  Although he has obviously been aboard the sulky behind some outstanding horses over his career, Abbatiello’s consistency is what earned him his reputation. In the 17-year stretch from 1968-84, the Harness Hall of Famer won 200 or more races 15 times including 393 in 1979 and 391 in 1980.  His annual winnings surpassed $3 million five times.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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