Beautiful engraved specimen certificate from the Roosevelt Raceway, Inc
incorporated in 1940. This historic document was printed by Security-Columbian Bank Note Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of the company logo. This item has the printed signature of the Company's President, George Morton Levy.
Roosevelt Raceway was a ˝-mile harness racing dirt track located in Westbury, New York, which operated from September 2nd 1940 until July 15th, 1988. It was the original home of the Messenger Stakes, part of the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers. The raceway hosted the event until it closed. It was also the first track to use the now universal "mobile starting gate". The operation was sold in 1984 on the condition it was to remain an operating racetrack, but the facilities were then allowed to deteriorate by the owners to the point where it was no longer feasible. The site is now home to a several shopping centers and condominiums.
The site of Roosevelt Raceway is part of the Hempstead Plains. It is located near where the first English Governor of New York, Richard Nicolls, established the "Newmarket Course", the first horse racing track in North America (and indeed, the first organized sport of any kind) in the territory that would become the United States, in 1664. The site had been part of the Roosevelt Field Airfield.
A racetrack had been created to host the dormant Vanderbilt Cup in 1936, but proved unsuccessful, and the race was only run at the site twice. The property was bought by a group of investors led by George Morton Levy in 1939, with the intention of opening a harness racing track. However, unlike previous incarnations of the sport, Levy's track would race at night, with single heat races, in an attempt to bring the "hick sport" to the populous Long Island area. With World War II in progress, attendance and profit were minimal in the first few years. The track opened September 2nd, 1940 with a crowd of 5000 which bet a total of $40,742 and saw the first race won by the horse "Martha Lee".
One of the difficulties the sport faced was the start of races, which usually required multiple restarts to make sure each entrant had an equal chance. On May 24, 1946, Levy introduced the mobile starting gate, which eliminated most restart related delays. Attendance quickly boomed. On June 30th, 1956 the track would host the inaugural Messenger Stakes, part of the new "Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers". The race was won by Belle Acton, who tied the track record and won $32,320. In 1957 a new, much larger grandstand was opened, which included such features as dining and air conditioned areas, as well as a new toteboard. The grandstand was known as the "Dream Track". In 1960 attendance was 54,861, for a racing card that included the International Trot, which at the time was the largest crowd to witness a horse race in the U.S. One black eye for the track occurred on November 8th, 1963, when only two horses finished following a mid-race crash. The race was declared official, which angered many of the 23,127 fans in attendance that night, setting off a riot. First throwing bottles and other debris, the fans then began jumping over the railing, smashing the tote board, and then attacking first the judges booth and then the police who attempted to interfere. After the fans began to set fires, arriving firemen set their hoses on the rioters to push them back. 15 people were treated for injuries.
The introduction of Off Track Betting in New York in 1971 had caused a decline in attendance at all the state's racetracks. In addition, the land value of the area had begun to skyrocket. This led to attempts by developers to acquire the racetrack with the purpose of demolition and development, which was opposed by Nassau County on the grounds that jobs and a public service would be lost.
In 1984 the site was sold by Madison Square Garden, a subsidiary of Gulf and Western Industries, to a group of investors (Roosevelt Raceway Associates) led by incumbent raceway president Bill Hopkins and investor Charles L. Evans, who received $54 million in tax-free bonds issued by the Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency.
At the time of purchase they promised " . . to successfully operate the Roosevelt Raceway in its existing location and to preserve a traditional source of enjoyment and revenue for the citizens of Hempstead and surrounding communities.". But Raceway Associates closed the track in 1988, and became embroiled in a controversy over the bonds, that would lead to an investigation that would include New York Senator Alfonse D'Amato, although no one would be found guilty of any legal wrongdoing. At the time of closure, the property was valued at approximately 200 million dollars. The investment group was unable to develop the site, and as the facilities were not maintained, the grandstand and stables began to crumble and the track became overgrown. While shopping centers were soon built on the former parking lots and stable areas, the grandstand would not be demolished until 2000.
Little remains of Roosevelt Raceway, other than the name, which still graces a shopping center and movie theater located on the former parking lot. The site of the grandstand and track which lay vacant for years is now the home to a condominium complex, which began operation in 2006.
Roosevelt Raceway opened on the evening of September 2, 1940 bringing harness racing to Long Island. It was built in a location very close (about 1/2 mile) to where Charles Lindberg took off on his historic flight to Europe. In 1956-57 the grandstand was completely rebuilt to become the ultra modern plant that everyone remembers. The raceway was open for almost 48 years until its final racing program on July 15, 1988. In between those two dates is harness racing history.
For many years Roosevelt along with her sister track Yonkers Raceway was the worlds formost harness tracks leading in attendance, handle, and purses.
Roosevelt Raceway introduced a new type of tote board which showed what a horses possible win place and show prices will be rather than display the odds.
In 1946 Roosevelt introduced the mobile starting gate to Harness Racing which is now the standard gate used for the sport the world over.
For many years the Roosevelt International Trot was held there, probably the second most important harness race second only to the Hambletonian.
Roosevelt highlighted the careers of some of harness racing's great horses such as Albatross and Niatross.
Many of the great drivers of Roosevelt Raceway
Carmine Abbatiello-Del Insko-Stanley Dancer-Lucien Fontaine-Norman Dauplaise-John Chapman-William Haughton-Satch Werner-Eddie Cobb-Ben Webster-Earl Cruise-Buddy Gilmore-George Phalen-Herve Filion-Henri Filion-Frank Popfinger-Russell Rash-William Myers-George Sholty-Frank Tagariello-Joe Faraldo-Real Cormier-Ken McNutt-Alan Myer-Jimmy Cruise Sr.-Mike Santa Maria-Satch Werner-Virgilio V. DiBenedetto-Jimmy Tallman
Specimen Certificates are actual certificates that have never been issued. They were usually kept by the printers in their permanent archives as their only example of a particular certificate. Sometimes you will see a hand stamp on the certificate that says "Do not remove from file".
Specimens were also used to show prospective clients different types of certificate designs that were available. Specimen certificates are usually much scarcer than issued certificates. In fact, many times they are the only way to get a certificate for a particular company because the issued certificates were redeemed and destroyed. In a few instances, Specimen certificates we made for a company but were never used because a different design was chosen by the company.
These certificates are normally stamped "Specimen" or they have small holes spelling the word specimen. Most of the time they don't have a serial number, or they have a serial number of 00000. This is an exciting sector of the hobby that grown in popularity over the past several years.