Balmoral Park Revival: A look back at Chicago’s iconic horse park
This is Part Two in a continuing series on the history of Balmoral Park, the newest addition to the HITS family of properties. Catch up on Part One here.
In 1940, Lincoln Fields hosted a legend once again when Whirlaway, winner of the Triple Crown in 1941, won his first race and began his famous career.
Whirlaway winning the Triple Crown in 1941
But by the early 1940s, the United States was preoccupied with things other than horse racing. In 1942, restrictions imposed because of World War II ended racing at Balmoral. Races were held at Cicero’s Hawthorne track from 1942 to 1947, and then at Homewood’s Washington Park from 1948 to 1951.
By 1952, Lincoln Fields was ready to host races again, but a fire in the grandstand during renovations caused so much damage that racing had to be posponed another two years. Thoroughbred racing finally began again at the site in 1954.
In 1955, Benjamin Lindheimer organized the Balmoral Jockey Club and bought Lincoln Fields, renaming it Balmoral Park. Lindheimer also ran Washington Park and Arlington Park. In the June 1960 issue of Sports Illustrated, Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Jones said Lindheimer was “the savior of Chicago racing.”
Horses race at Balmoral | Source: Chicago Tribune
Tragedy struck five years later, when in 1960 Lindehimer died. His adopted daughter, Marjorie Lindheimer Everett, took over operations of the track. She consolidated all of her father’s races under the umbrella of a new corporation called Chicago Thoroughbred Enterprises and by 1964 had moved thoroughbred racing at Balmoral to Arlington Park.
In 1967, William S. Miller, a self-made millionaire and horse breeder, purchased Balmoral with his associates. A clever businessman, Miller converted the track to a half-mile harness racing track. Neighboring Cook County had a limited harness racing season, and Balmoral Park’s location allowed them to extend the season throughout the winter.
However, the park changed hands once more in 1973, when Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation purchased Balmoral and converted the track into one that could accommodate both Thoroughbred and harness racing. In 1978, thoroughbred racing made its triumphant return to the park after 24 years.
The grandstands at Balmoral Park
HITS CEO Tom Struzzieri is excited to add to the iconic horse park’s rich legacy. “Equestrian sports are steeped in Balmoral’s history,” he says. “What a rare find that we were able to find such a unique property that had that going for it as well as terrific infrastructure.”
For five reasons we’re excited to make Chicago our newest equestrian destination, click here.