Pennsylvania Horseracing

Envisioning Pennsylvania as an experiment in utopian living, founder William Penn had his first colonial legislature ban "riotous sports" that might tempt his colonists into immoral and licentious behavior. Sports and athletic contests had long been associated with gambling, drinking, and other earthly sins.

Still, even Penn himself was not beyond a little honest competition. He reportedly raced his horses in Philadelphia down what would fittingly later be named Race Street; but, then, horse racing was one sport that the legislature did not specifically ban. And even outlawed sports found willing participants in the earliest Quaker colonists.

In 1687, Richard Crosby was fined five shillings for drunkenness and challenging a Swede to a bout of cudgels, in which the two opponents would joust at each other with short sticks.

As Scots Irish Presbyterians, English Anglicans, and other less restrained groups joined Penn's colony, their search for amusement, often fueled by alcohol, extended to cockfights, bull baits, cards, dice, foot racing, wrestling, and similar contests upon which they could wager. In response, the Pennsylvania Assembly and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting passed laws and bans to discourage these and other ungodly activities; laws and injunctions widely ignored by their fellow colonists.

Official censure continued into the early 1800s. The Pennsylvania legislature banned horse racing throughout the state in 1820, but by then deep changes and emerging forces in American life were giving rise to competitive sports and recreations.

Playing fields provided beneficial outlets for pent-up energies, important institutions of socialization, and training grounds for the learning of honesty, teamwork, fair play, subservience to authority, and other traits necessary for success and leadership in the competitive free market economy of the modern world.

Today, Pennsylvania horseracing continues to flourish in spite of the challenges to the sport.

Pennsylvania Horseracing Tracks

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Horseracing Tracks