Maryland’s Oldest Harness Racing Track
Rosecroft Raceway quickly became a social and political hot spot when it opened in 1949. Thousands of people came from across the country to wager and watch the horses, including such prominent visitors as the glamorous Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, former President Lyndon B. Johnson and British actress Elizabeth Taylor.
The facility was built on the grounds of the former WE Miller Stables by William E. Miller, who went on to become renowned as a harness driver and horse breeder. It was the first harness track in Maryland, and the first track to be owned by horse owners, trainers and jockeys. And such was its initial success that owners and trainers from across the country moved their farms to Maryland in hopes of competing against top-notch horses.
On its first night of racing (after an initial rain-out on opening night) 6,000 people showed up and $164,501 was wagered. The amount was the second-highest ever recorded for a night trotting track on an opening night.
In the 80s, Rosecroft hosted the Breeders Crown, a traveling series of harness races to showcase the best 2-year-old and 3-year-old horses throughout North America and Canada, and the 2-Year-Old Pace of the 1985 Breeders Crown. It was nicknamed “The Raceway by the Beltway” for its proximity to Interstate 495 and convenience to Washington, D.C.,
In 1990, the raceway hosted the Messenger Stakes, one of the races for the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers, and the Potomac Stakes, Maryland’s most successful race of the era. On a September 1990 night, $1,195,681 was wagered, becoming the then-largest handle in Rosecroft’s history. This record was broken on May 3, 2003 when $1,564,150 was wagered.
Despite its early success, Rosecroft struggled for several decades, plagued by mismanagement, unfavorable gambling sanctions, competition from rival tracks, lawsuits and bankruptcy. Live racing ended in 2009 and the track closed in 2010. In January 2011, Penn National Gaming bought Rosecroft and reopened the track that same year. Today, the site features a 53,000 square-foot grandstand and a three-story club house featuring the terrace dining room, which holds up to 1,100 people. Each table in the dining room has its own television, which can be used to watch horse racing—either from Rosecroft or other tracks around the world.
Visit Rosecroft’s website for race times, race results, horse info and more.