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 Build it and They Won't Come !     

Audubon RacewayFirst Night 1955

Audubon was a half mile dirt oval, that conducted racing for 38 years in Henderson. It was located a few miles from the Indiana border and only was a short drive across the Ohio River, to Ellis Park, which helped bring it to it's demise. The track held mostly night harness racing and featured a glass enclosed grandstand, which sat 3,200 with 450 additional seats in the clubhouse. There was parking for 2,000 cars. Audubon Raceway started and ended a harness track, but it had a lot of change in between.

Audubon RacewayThoroughbreds at Audubon

Starting out in 1955, with harness racing as Audubon Raceway, the track never seemed to find  a firm financial footing. After only one year of harness racing Audubon converted to thoroughbreds, they only lasted two years. At that point the track went dark from 1958 to 1963. In 1964 the harness horses returned for their longest run as Audubon Raceway, which lasted eleven years, when financial woes struck again.

In 1974, the track once again changed hands and was reamed Midwest Harness, this lasted through 1978. In 1979, the track reverted back to Audubon Raceway, this continued until 1986, when the track went bankrupt one more time. Trying to avert a final shutdown, a group of horsemen pulled together to re-open the track in 1987. Now named Western Kentucky Harness Raceway, this arrangement only lasted one year and looked like the end of harness racing in Henderson.

Audubon RacewayDon't Blink

After the eighty seven season the track changes hands again, this time it gets it's current name Riverside Downs and introduces quarter horse racing in 1988. After a couple of years of quarter horse racing, standardbreds return in 1990 with a split quarter horse and harness meet. From then on the track runs only harness horses through 1993, but the real problem becomes simulcasting. Somewhere at the beginning of this ramble I mentioned Ellis Park, well this is where they fit in.

Around this time in Kentucky, simulcast or inter track wagering was beginning in Kentucky, and it was regulated by county and because Riverside Downs and Ellis Park were in the same county, this was a problem for both tracks, each wanting the bigger share of the pie. To make a long story short, after a lot of legal battles, in a surprise move the Kentucky Racing Commission granted all the dates to Ellis Park. In response the owner of Riverside Downs closed the track and made a deal to move his dates to a new track he would build in Ashland. There is no indication that this ever happened, but it was the end of Audubon Raceway.

Audubon RacewayQuarter Horse's Audubon

Audubon is yet another example of a racetrack that never should have been built. It started off ok in 1955 but by 1958 it stood vacant till 1964. It managed to stay afloat till 1971. It reopened as Midwest Harness in 1975 and ended life as Riverside Downs in the early 90's.

During its troubled career the only newsworthy events were a series of devastating barn fires that killed at least sixty horses from 1979 to 2008.  Today the grandstand is crumbling the clubhouse is gone but the track seems like it is still being used for training. There is some deal that Riverside Downs will never be used while neighboring Ellis Park is still solvent.

In 2010 I whiffed on my chance to see the raceway. Leaving Ellis Park going south just over the bridge I sped past the Riverside Downs sign, not knowing at the time it was really Audubon Raceway.

By 2014, Riverside Downs has ceased to exist as a training facility and no matter what happens across the river at Ellis Park, this site will never race again. As noted above I never made it to Audubon Raceway, but did get to see some horses and drivers who raced there. Betty Gill and Larry Garwood are two driver/trainers who come to mind who showed up at times at Hinsdale Raceway in New Hampshire, after the Audubon meet, where I could see them run.