History of Laurel Park

It’s always a day at the races at Laurel Park! Looking for short-term rentals in Baltimore? Check us out!

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From history to culture, and everything in between, Baltimore has many exciting things to explore whether you’re in town for business or pleasure. Among the variety of venues near short-term rentals in Baltimore, a popular attraction not to miss is Laurel Park, the state’s premier destination for horse racing and horse racing results.

While Laurel Park opened its doors in October 1911, it was not until three years later, when New York City grocery entrepreneur James Butler purchased the track, that the venue reached nationwide renown. The success was, in part, due to Butler’s installation of Col. Matt Winn as Laurel Park’s general manager. Winn is known as the man who put the Kentucky Derby on the national racing stage. In 1947, the Maryland Jockey Club purchased Laurel from the Butler estate with plans to merge the Pimlico race meetings to Laurel Park. When the plans to transfer were not approved by the Maryland Legislature, the Maryland Jockey Club sold the track to Baltimore industrialist Morris Schapiro in 1950.

Under the leadership of Morris Schapiro’s son, John D. Schapiro, Laurel Park was first updated and modernized with the construction of a new clubhouse and turf club, the one-mile and one-eighth extension of the main race track, and the addition of the Washington, D.C. International race, which would later become a fixture on U.S. and foreign racing calendars until 1995. The last update to Laurel under Schapiro was the installation of an air conditioning system in the grandstand and the clubhouse in 1982. Two years later, Schapiro sold the track to Frank J. De Francis and his partners, Robert and John “Tommy” Manfuso, who entered the venue into its renaissance of improvements, ranging from a $2 million Sports Palace to specialty rooms dedicated to various events and private gatherings.

Now managed by Frank De Francis’ son, Joseph, Laurel Park remains one of the finest race tracks in the United States. The new main course, completed in early January 2005, was widened from 75 feet in width to 95 feet to include one-mile races and an upgraded track surface. The sweeping turf course, which was completed at the same time, was widened from 75 feet to 142 feet, which can now accommodate six track configurations named in honor of some of the great horses that had competed in Laurel Park.

An impressive site, Laurel Park offers wide selections in dining options and horse race viewing for spectators, old and new. For those enjoying a vacation or those trying to find a way to relax on business, get out of short-term rentals in Baltimore and explore the history and excitement of Laurel Park.