Thoroughbred horse racing remembered at Scarborough Downs

SCARBOROUGH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's the time of year when thoroughbred horse racing gains national attention -- especially this week, with California Chrome a contender for the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes.

For some Maine horsemen, watching these races brings back memories of the 1950s and 60s, when Scarborough Downs was the first and only thoroughbred track in Maine.

"It was an exciting thing for a young kid like myself," said Lloyd Johnson, the former announcer at Scarborough Downs. He remembers attending Opening Day at the track when he was 11 years old.

Lloyd said it was a big draw to the area, and one of the main attractions in Southern Maine, with thousands of people attending a race.

In the early 1970s, Scarborough Downs transitioned into a harness racing only track.

His friend, Gerry Smith, remembers working in the stalls in the 60s. He said the track had about 1,000 thoroughbreds in the stalls at one time.

Smith said he remembers those days fondly - but he also worries about the future of horse racing at smaller tracks.

"This is an industry that's been going since the mid 1800s, and to see that industry be in jeopardy, it's really bad," said Smith.

But officials at Scarborough Downs are optimistic that all the attention on California Chrome will trickle down to their track.

The Downs will have a Belmont Stakes party on Saturday, June 7. There will be a simulcast from Belmont Park and live races at track, starting at 2 p.m.

The Belmont Stakes will air on NEWS CENTER beginning at 4:30 on Saturday, June 7.


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