Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Early Greyhound Racing Had Its Controversial Moments, Too

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Early Greyhound Racing Had Its Controversial Moments, Too

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Jo McTammany

Greyhound racing at the southeast corner of U.S. 17 and Wells Road in Orange Park has had a long and colorful history.

It all started in 1926, when a group of heavy hitters conspired to bring the sport to Florida. The only local bigwig in the group and admittedly the low man in the pecking order was W.R. Carter, retired publisher of the Florida Metropolis newspaper.

The other members of the cabal moved in stratospheric circles and included Col. Jacob Ruppert, flamboyant owner of the New York Yankees; Judge Emil Fuchs, former New York City judge and then owner of the Boston Braves; world famous golfer Walter Hagen (at the time holder of 12 major national and international tournament championships); and Robert Meyer Guggenheim, legendary copper magnate.

Greyhound racing had been around for only about five years, so these guys were on the cutting edge of the sport. Pari-mutuel betting was illegal in Florida but ... this crew thought they had that little inconvenience solved. Players were not betting - they were buying shares in the dogs just like investing in the stock market.

On Saturday, May 22, more than 5,000 so-called investors showed up for the matinee at the brand, spanking new Seminole Kennel Club. Sometime over the weekend, Florida State Attorney George Durrance recognized a wolf in dog's clothing and by race time Monday night Clay County Sheriff Elam J. Weeks and deputies were wading through the crowd of 4,000 or so. They arrested 80 track employees and the state-of-the-art Seminole Kennel Club closed down.

Locals went back to organizing impromptu rodeos on the property with no wagering allowed. Oh yeah, there was betting because in those days men would bet on which side of a horse's tail a fly would land. They just did it among people they knew and trusted and didn't advertise it in the Jacksonville papers. …

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