Many racetracks have come and gone over the history of the United States. Two from my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, come to mind. The first was a Thoroughbred track called Miles Park and the second was a Standardbred track named Louisville Downs.

In 1956, the then-new and relocated Kentucky State Fairgrounds was opened at its current site near Louisville International Airport (Standiford Field). It replaced the old Kentucky State Fairgrounds in Louisville’s West End. In June 1956, Fairgrounds Speedway opened at the old State Fairgrounds as a short-lived venue for harness racing. Then, in June 1958, the racetrack was renamed Miles Park and became a place for Thoroughbred racing.

Miles Park always operated in the shadow of Louisville-based Churchill Downs, with its Kentucky Derby. Miles Park was nothing more than a claiming-race specialist, but nonetheless attracted some well-known jockeys, either on their way up or down.

In May 1964, tragedy struck when a barn fire took the lives of 26 horses. Miles Park had a name change to Commonwealth Race Course in June of 1974, but the end of Thoroughbred racing was near, in February 1975. The racetrack was dormant until September of 1977, when quarter horse racing was tried. In June 1978, the grandstand was destroyed by another fire and that was the end of racing at the old Kentucky State Fairgrounds.

My memories of Miles Park are somewhat vague after all this time, but I do recall traveling to the racetrack with the state veterinarian, Dr. Lawrence J. Scanlan, who was a friend, and betting on races according to the vet’s assessment of how the horses looked in the paddock and warming up. This was a wholly unsatisfactory method and a monetary loser. More adept handicapping could have been done by selecting horses to bet on using random numbers.

I recall being able to talk, up close and personal, with many of the people who worked at Miles Park, most notably trainers and jockeys, such as jockeys Lonnie Abshire and Earlie Fires and trainers Gilbert Phillips and E. B. Turner. One of the Miles Park officials, Edwin Davis, was the brother of a prominent television actor of the day, Roger Davis.

At Miles Park, someone was always willing to provide you with a tip on a “sure winner” that usually did not turn out that way.

Louisville Downs was opened in 1966 by William King, who had few peers as a promoter. The late Stan Bergstein of Harness Tracks of America told me he vividly recalled being at the track’s opening night of racing and how spectacular it was.

Louisville Downs presented harness racing until 1991, when it closed. Today, the Louisville Downs site is owned by Churchill Downs and is used as a training center and occasionally as a simulcasting facility.

William King’s half-mile harness track was an inviting place to spend a warm summer night, with some decent harness racing and a clean physical environment. The Louisville area (and Kentucky) is Thoroughbred-oriented and harness racing at Louisville Downs was always a stepsister to the runners at Churchill Downs, only five miles away.

Miles Park and Louisville Downs were minor league racetracks that nonetheless have a special place in my memory bank. What can you say about a racetrack like Miles Park, where in 1974 the stewards certified the wrong horse as a winner of a race? Some might charge that the fix was in, but if you knew Miles Park, you would be just as likely to attribute the mistake to bumbling at a sleepy haven for low-level racing and unforgettable characters from a time long gone by.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business


  1. Miles Park brings back a lot of thoughts from the past. I ran horses there for several years and was sad to see the old track go.

  2. I remember Louisville Downs very well. Everything was red and white and very well kept.
    My father co-owned a stable of horse that raced there at least two years in the summer time. I was about 12 years old and have fond memories of caring for the horses, the track kitchen (which had excellent chocolate cake) and the “big house on the hill” which served as the racing secretary’s office. Robin Burns was the track announcer. Fond memories!

  3. watched t.v program on old fair grounds at Cecil Ave. funny thing is that they never spoke about Miles Park!

  4. Kathleen says

    I spent many, many nights (mainly in the summers) going with my Father to Louisville Downs or Miles Park in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. I have many wonderful memories of both places and meeting lots of wonderful people there!

  5. Willie Chauncey says

    I worked with Seymour Stables , (driver/trainer Fred Parks) , late 1966 -May 1968. I was drafted, went to Vietnam . And when I returned, went to Deleon Springs, Fred offered my old position back. But I had made up my mind to go to school. That was early Jan. 1970. In March He sent (Gorden Lashway) one of the older guys I had worked with. He and Allen Shadduck were great and honorable gentlemen, that took a liking to very naive (to the ways of the world) and young man whom they seemed to delight in teaching me all they knew about Race Horses.
    When Gorden’s truck pulled up in front of my House, in Jax. ,Fl. I didn’t know what to think. Fred had sent him to persuade me to come to Philly , Pa. To help Him ( Fred knew I started to school in April ) He had one of the crew quit and needed some help until He could get another Groom. I agreed, I packed up and went with Gorden , until we met the Horse Van at a Truck stop in S. Carolina. Where I rode the rest of the way. Gorden went another route so as to visit relatives in Va. I believe .
    I never went to the Harness tracks in Ky. But remember Fred saying he would like to go check them out. Although He was a diehard eastern circuit Driver.
    True to his word Fred bought me a train ticket home. And took me to the train station. He had spent most of that month trying to talk me into staying. I surely had thoughts of staying on. But had promised myself I’d try to go back to school.
    I lost communication with them , and I learned (December) from an old friend/coworker, that Fred had died in May of 1970. Less than 2 months after I left. RIP Fred. I hope you’re driving a Golden Sulky.
    I Lost all contact with the Harness world . Special thanks to Joe Hylan. Frank & Jackie Lowe. W/ J. R. Rick Stables.
    Joe who gave me my first grooming job. And Frank Lowe whom had tried to teach a farm boy how to be a Horseman, before passing that torch on to Fred Parks.
    In 2001 , I was passing through a Town in Ga., Hawkinsville . Where I ran into Charley Martin jr. He had wintered his horses there. He and His wife , told me that mrs. Parks had died also. Charley had remembered me. But didn’t know what had happened to Gorden or Chad.
    Fond memories of those days.
    Stanley Dancer , Herve Fillion, & Charlie Fitzpatrick to name a few other trainer drivers.

    Don’t know if any are still around.

  6. I remember spending many summer afternoons in the early 1960’s at Miles Park. One of my friends jokingly referred to it as Mules Park. You mentioned “the fix”. That brings to mind a story. It was the last race of the afternoon on one long ago Saturday afternoon. I bet on a horse by the name of Shooting Dog. I watched the race from a position close to the finish line and saw a horse by the name of French Express win by at least a neck over Shooting Dog. The photo sign went up. Several minutes later Shooting Dog was proclaimed the winner of the photo. The crowd stood in stunned silence for about 10 seconds. All of a sudden someone started booing. Very quickly the whole crowd was booing. A hard copy photo was posted which agreed with the “official” result. The crowd was still booing after I cashed my ticket for $5.00 and left. Does anyone else remember this incident?

  7. Miles park is where my mom and dad met.My grandma worked admissions and my mom would go to the races with her cousin all the time and my dad was asst. starter and he would try and talk to her all the time but she wouldnt even tell him her name.they were married in 1967.I think that was the year my uncle T-Red Bernis was leading jockey there.Does anybody remember anything about an elephant race maybe in 77′

  8. Admission was one silver dollar deposited to click open the turnstile. Saving those silver dollars would have been a much better bet.

  9. Jay V Greene says

    Well my father worked for Jay Miles. So guess who I was named after. Jay Miles himself. We also lived on the track from 49-59 I think. Fantastic memories

  10. Charles Hogan says

    John I remember Shooting Dog and French express like it was yesterday. I was standing on finish line with Harry Wilder and Bill McGreagor and we had split $5 win bet on French Express at 7-1.
    French Express won by exactly 3/4 of a length and they put up Shooting Dog. After you left Windows were knocked out and chairs were destroyed. I remember when they put photo up Harry ran he’s fist through glass and tore picture out passed it around.
    Several small fires were started and WAVE had a half hour TV spot showing the head on. You couldn’t see finish from head on. Someone stole that race and I remember it like it was yesterday.
    In my 62 years of going to over 127 different racetracks Miles Park still beats out Hialeah and Keeneland as my faviorte track. I first went there when it was a half mile harness run track named Fairgrounds Speedway.

  11. Charles Hogan says

    Susie T Red Bernis was leading jockey for several years. He would win 5 a day wire to wire just like Earlie Fires. Great times at Miles Park.

  12. Ted Hardesty says

    Flying into Louisville from Texas in July of 1968, I had a day to kill before reporting for duty at the Ft. Knox Armor School. My uncle Harold and I decided to try our luck at Miles Park. I had six winners and cleared $85, big bucks for a $2 bettor and a thin wallet I remember watching the horses up close from the rail … Also played the horses at Louisville Downs. Nice venue.

  13. Joyce King jennings says

    I am the daughter of William H King the founder of Louisville Downs. I’m so glad to see it is remembered so well and with great admiration by so many people. Louisville Downs has a Facebook page. If you would like to add comment or pictures.

  14. Jackson Black says

    Oh, man…..Louisville Downs! I remember it not as a harness track, but for being possibly the coolest venue for motorcycle flat track racing east of the Mississippi, especially during the glory days of that sport in the late-1960s thru 70s. A 5/8 mi. “cushion” track topped with limestone, there were few spectacles in motorsports as thrilling as watching a rider full-throttle up by the bales throwing giant rooster tales; the classic shot of the late Rex Beauchamp crossed-up on the edge of control was taken there, too. I still have snapshots of the place in those times. In later years, I believe that was where rider Davey Jones was killed when he struck a drunken undesirable who ran onto the track. I made it back there for a cycle race around the very-late 80s to help a rider friend out; after a downpour and a plea from the announcer, some guy came out of the stands, took over the track grader and scraped every pebble of limestone away, and we wheel-packed the base and ran the final at 2 a.m.
    I actually crossed paths with William H. King back in “the day”, and he seemed like a truly class act. The man was certainly responsible for the cherished memories of many.

  15. Benny Bivins says

    Mr. Shanklin, I’m glad that people are still googling Miles Park, Louisville Downs and reading your article! I spent a good part of my youth in Louisville during the Sixties and Seventies, staying with relatives. I remember a promotional game involving Miles Park and Louisville area grocery stores. To play, you would go to the store and, when your groceries were bagged, you were given a ticket with race numbers and horses’ post positions / blanket numbers for races at Miles Park. I don’t remember whether or not the tickets were free. Then, one night a week, a half-hour of recorded, televised racing from Miles Park was broadcast. If your horse finished in the money for your race, you won a cash prize redeemable on your next visit to the grocery store. Does anyone else remember this, along with more details about the promotion?
    Regarding the late, great Mr. William H. King, does anyone else remember the $3.00 bets at Louisville Downs? And, does anyone else remember the radio jingle for the Sport, Boat and Vacation Show at the KFEC, “’cause it won’t be long ’til it’s that time of year”?

  16. I remember Kroger running a promotion involving a race shown on TV. I think they gave you a ticket when you bought groceries. I remember your horse was always close to winning, but didn’t. I do remember the $3 bet. It didn’t go over very well. Do you remember the announcer at Louisville Downs, Mike Berry? He also had a 1/2 hour radio show every day giving the winners at CD or MP. I remember a jingle at Louisville Downs played before the first race. It was something to do with “win the daily double”. I do remember the Sport, Boat and Vacation Show song. It was a woman’s voice singing “’cause it won’t be long ’til it’s that time of year”.

  17. Vickie Johnson says

    I often wonder about the riders and whatever happened to them. There were some nice owners and trainers, some still around. I remember LG Rivera and Pete Glenn. Of course Cowboy Jones was a favorite. My connection was brief and of course, life happens. But some of my favorite memories are of Miles Park and the good people I met there!

  18. Richard B says

    I am from Louisville Ky, and as a kid I would go to Miles Park with my mother all the time. It was in the west end and we rode the bus to and from the track most of the times. I remember one night my dad gave us a ride to the track because it was raining. It got to raining so bad the track announcer could only say (there at the post and there off) then everyone would wait for the horses to get close to the finish line and he would try to call the end of the race. Well on that night she played a horse named Lady Boxer, which was a very long shot 50-1 or better. Lady Boxer won and she won a few thousand dollars that night. We also went to Louisville Downs at night and I loved that track as well. They had a play area for the kids and I used to play with one of the drivers’ son. The driver was named Jim Maupin. They both told me that most the races at Louisville Downs was rigged. One time a horse named Spring Snow Adios broke stride at the start of the race and was almost a quarter of a mile behind the last place horse. Well Spring Snow Adios won the race way to easy after breaking stride. The best horse that I saw run at Louisville Downs was named Dins Skipper. Both tracks were great for the small $2.00 better and they both were kid friendly.

  19. Louisville Downs was located on land that was my Great-Grandparents homestead. The track office in the stable area was actually the old homestead. My mother was born and raised there. There is a road leading into what was the back of the parking lot the bears the family name; Brietenstien Lane. My grandfather, myself and three brothers (teenagers) all worked during summers, cleaning, cutting grass and painting. Mr. King took pride in the appearance, and always wanted it to look top notch. Lots of fond memories, especially with the family tie-in. Saw a lot of special events from behind the scenes, concerts, motorcycle races, sears tent sales… Mr. King was quite the promoter, brought a lot to Louisville.

  20. Jim Murchison says

    Jim Murchison,I loved Miles Park in 1972 I was second leading rider there, and in 1973 was leading rider by many. In 1974 when it changed to Commonwealth I think I finished second leading rider. It was a great little track that I won’t forget.

  21. Bud Parkinson says

    Trough the mid 60s till closing day miles was a lower level , but Everyone looked out for kids. Lupe Rivera had 66 winners as a apprentice!! First time and last . Ken Ramsey did start there claiming a 1500$ horse the horse was a rigling ( means has only one testicle) after the race the horses pulled up lame .he got to the barn and found out the horse was blind in one eye .ken told the story . 1500$ for my first horse ( had 3 legs ,one eye , and one nut . Not a bad deal. All the tracks have the callers in the skybox . But miles had a ladder to a platforms that looked like a deer stand . Loved it though

  22. Bud Parkinson says

    Jim murchison , we would love to see you come back home to the pea patch Ellis park

  23. Why no Mention of Douglas Park in the listing of horse tracks in Louisville
    . It was in the middle of Beachmont. Horses were stabled here in the late 40’s and early 50’s Races were ran on a 1/2 mile track in earlier times. Sometime in the early 50’s the barns burned down. Little was left except a pond and the entrance pillars. We played baseball on a field near Southside drive for several years.

  24. I remember Mr. Ramsey sold A few horse’s to my Dad, in the 60’s and early 70’s. He booked, “Highpockets” @ Miles. Earlie Fires rode a few for my folks.

  25. Vickie Johnson says

    Does anyone know what happened to those great riders from back in the day? It would be interesting to know how they are.

  26. miles park was owned by the mafia in buffalo n.y.

  27. Eugene Kemp says

    I grew up around the corner from Miles Park, and remember the fire of 64. Horses were running all over the neighborhood. Sad day

  28. Does anyone remember Trainer W.E. Smith at Miles Park in the early 60’s? I have a picture of him and others I do not know — with a horse named: Penny Fox. Appears the horse came in first in a race there at Miles Park. He is connected to my family history in some way.

  29. David Henderson says

    I fondly remember a lot of 4 1/2 furlong races at Miles Park. They also ran the Junior Derby there.

  30. I am searching for all information on Iron Rail. He won Juvenile Derby 1960 ish.
    Iron rail bear carry 2nd place and Hsil to Reson.
    John Kelty half owner and zaDon Ford the other.
    Stanley Reiser trainer. They had to put him down
    ANzy information or preferably pictures greatly appreciated.


  31. Donna Frazer-Stepp says

    My father Ray Frazer was a jockey and trainer there, Does anyone remember him or the horse named ” LUCKY LENA”. She won the
    ” Jr.Derby “and jockey L. Patrice Bowls was up. ? If so I would love to hear from you.

  32. donna givans says

    I was at Miles Park that day in 1964 during the fire. My uncle Bobby Bennett had ridden there many times and had retired and became a trainer. He had horses stabled at Miles Park the day of the fire. My younger brother was with my aunt Jan (Bobby’s wife) at the track. When my mother (Bobby’s sister) heard of the fire she took me and my sister to the track to find my brother, aunt and uncle. The barns were burning and the smoke was thick and noxious. My mother asked and elderly black woman in the grandstand to stay with me an my sister until she could locate my brother. I remember horses running and burning the horrible sounds they were making. Luckily the family members were ok.

  33. Steve bosco says

    Is a jockey named Pete Glenn still living?

  34. Steve Kweskin says

    I was the last clerk of scales to weigh out a jockey at Commonwealth in 1977 during the Quarter Horse races. That was the end of racing at Miles Park. Cowboy Jones is still around Ellis Park every summer. Come to Ellis and you can’t miss him as he is all stooped over from his many racing injuries. I said 1977….it might have been 1978. I know I worked their two years. I was in line one morning in the cafeteria and everyone appeared sad. I asked what was going on and was told Elvis at died. Lots of good memories from my time at Commonwealth.

  35. Steve Kweskin says

    And one more thing….someone mentioned Lucky Lena. When I was a kid Lucky Lena was one of my favorite horses at Ellis Park. She was a little thing, If I remember right, but the best horse of the meet one summer. Everyone loved Lucky Lena at Ellis Park, and she is not forgotten by us older fans. I’m sure she won and was loved at the other Kentucky tracks, too.

  36. Charles Hogan says

    Lucky Lena was the favorite of many Miles Park fans including me. She never ran in Jr.Derby and she couldn’t run a step over six furlongs.
    Luck Lena and Master Chris were my two favorite.

  37. Eric Hawkins says

    My Family Kenneth, Anna, Eric Hawkins, and my sister Nancy Minton spent 1986 until they closed in 1991 racing there. Our horse that won the most races was Lady Eagle. Jim Maupin drove her to win more than a few times. I was a little boy back then but I will never forget the time we spent there! Did anyone else spend time in the Sulky Room?

  38. I spent many Mondays at Miles Park when I was 16. Memories ofEarlie Fires riding in those 41/2 sprent races are still very vivid in my mind.When I returned from Vietnam 1967, I fell in love just knowing I could see my favorite track.By that time I used going to the trac as a “date” with girls. A great place to take them when the races took place at night. I can still hear the theme song of the movie ” Bridge at River K ? ” played as the horses neared the starting gate

  39. Jared S Wells says

    Willie Chauncey, I enjoyed reading your post. Fred Parks was my great-grandfather. As a kid there were always hoses around and are still in my blood. I heard many of the names you mentioned at the end of your post. He passed when I was five, but the legend of Fred Parks lives on. This made my day.

  40. Eric, I remember Lucky Lena. She never finished off the board in all of her races at Miles Park. In her last race at Miles Park before she was retired she was already in foal. She, of course, finished in-the-money.

  41. Dee,
    My husband’s grandfather is E.B. White. I would love to see the picture. I’m wondering if he is in it.

  42. What marvelous memories! There’s a Facebook group for folks who remember and are fans of Louisville’s harness racing. Go to to join the “Louisville Standardbred Horse People.”

  43. William Matthews says

    I remember Miles Park well. Hung out there in the Spring and Summer until I went to Viet Nam in 1969. Lucky Lena, Edward A and Bronzeair were my favorite horses. Won money on some of them. Red Jack was another memorable horse along with Craig’s Love, Lucky Sword,the Sword Dancer colt carried by Lucky Lena when she ran in 1966, Burial Ground, Gwanidier, and Bargain Package. The best horses I saw at Miles Park were La Contessa, King of Kentucky, Great Mary and Doug Davis’ filly Idle Dreamer. I was there the night a horse broke through the fence and ran into the grandstand and also the wrong horse photo afternoon, may have been night. I have no clue what happened to most of the jocks, trainers, and owners. I saw Cowboy Jones at Ellis and Kentucky Downs. Lonnie Abshire died about ten years ago. He and his wife were regulars at the Clarksville IN OTB. One of my boyhood neighbors, Silas Fentress owned a horse named Spud which won either the Independence Day or Memorial Day Handicaps. Tons of memories.

  44. ROGER DODD says


  45. ROGER DODD says


  46. After reading about Churchill Downs buying Ellis Park today I had to look up Miles Park. As a young 16 year old working there was my first paying job—behind a concession stand. The owner gave me a trial run my first day (without pay of course) as I fried burgers, poured cokes and did whatever he asked. At the end of the day he said, “ You’re not afraid to work. You’re hired.” Putting up with cranky, demanding customers was the hardest part of my job.

    Knowing mostly nothing about horse racing I came to work one day and it was beginning to rain. I wandered around the area inside I found a man chewing his tobacco and asked,” It’s starting to rain. Will the track be closed today?” He smiled and said, “Nope, honey. It’s a great day for the mudders.” Back to work I went.

  47. I just came upon this group by accident. I was looking up Jane Mansfield to prove she was at Miles Park one summer. My whole family enjoyed Miles Park. I was glad someone mentioned Red Jack. My sister and I never missed when he was running! I saw someone mentioned Leroy Tauzin, he and his family were friends. I thought Miles had pretty good hamburgers. I also remember the Bridge Over River Kuai, whistling song. 3 minutes til post time. I loved that track! It was fun!