The earliest recorded Harness Races on Lower Saranac Lake were held in 1894. 1 Harness ice races were sponsored by the Northern New York Trotting Circuit. Lower Saranac Lake races were the most popular; others were held on Moody Pond, as well as in Tupper Lake, Malone and Ticonderoga. In 1895, prizes awarded totaled $600, a substantial $2,000 in 1898. Contestants traveled from as far as Plattsburgh, Glens Falls and Vermont. The bicycle sulky, with pneumatic bicycle tires, was introduced in 1895; it gave the driver a two second advantage over his competition, often enough to win the race.
Special round-trip race-weekend rates were offered by the New York Central and the Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railroads from both New York City and Malone to Saranac Lake, at 2 cents a mile, 50 cent minimum tickets in 1895. Lower Saranac Lake spectators were estimated to number three thousand in 1894, and four thousand in 1897.
The first tracks were one-mile long kite shaped affairs, beginning and ending at the judges' stand by the Ampersand Hotel. The kite shape was abandoned few years later in favor of a half-mile straight track, allowing spectators to watch the race in its entirety.
From the 2008 History Day display, Ice Ventures on Lower Saranac Lake by Caperton Tissot
Malone Palladium, January 25, 1894
The races on the ice at Saranac Lake last week afforded fine sport and attracted a large attendance. It is estimated that over 4,000 people were present during the four days.
Franklin Gazette, January 22, 1897
Last Saturday horsemen of Saranac Lake and vicinity to the number of nearly 1,000 witnessed a close and exciting matched race over the ice track on Lower Saranac Lake between Wallace Murray's fast mare, Miss May Bee, and John Cotey's Roscoe C. The purse of $100 was won by Miss May Bee in straight heats, time 2:25, 2:23 1-4, 2:22 1-4. Both of these horses will start in the ice races at Saranac Lake this week, when it is probable that even faster time will be made. Mr. Murray is a good judge of horseflesh and has in Miss May Bee an extremely promising young mare.
Lake Placid News, January 22, 1926
SARANAC CLUB SCHEDULES EIGHT HARNESS RACES
Phil Adler Interested in Promoting Three-day Placid Meet of Ice Racing
The 1926 program for harness racing on the ice of Moody Pond, Saranac Lake, has been announced for February 16, 17, 18, and 19 by Charles J. Neubauer, Sr., president of the Saranac Lake Driving Club and Phil Adler, secretary.
There will be both trotting and pacing races on the second crop of ice on Moody Pond. $1400 in purses will be offered. Eight harness events are announced. The free-for-all will take place on the third day, and on the last day a name race and the consolation event will be held. Several special features, including a half-mile horseback race for boys and a half-mile dog-team race, are also planned by the promoters.
If Lake Placid will guarantee $600, according to Mr. Adler, it will be possible to put on a three-day meet here. This amount would be used for six one hundred dollar purses. There would be no entry fee and no reductions in the winners' amounts. The horses would be brought over here from Saranac Lake and would be cared for here during the time of the meet.
Mr. Adler, when interviewed, was very sanguine of the prospects for a most successful meet at Saranac Lake and of the opportunity for Placid to put on a three-day affair at a nominal cost.
Record Post, Ausable Forks, NY, January 8, 1928
DATES FIXED FOR ICE RACE MEETING AT SARANAC LAKE
Will Begin on January 29 and Continue for Four Days— Prizes Total $1,900
Dates for the light harness race meet to be held under the direction of the Saranac Lake Driving Club have, been fixed for January 29, 30, 31 and February 1. Two races will be held each day of the meeting and the purses will total $1,900. The events will be held over the track of the Adirondack Fair Association, which will be put in the best, possible condition for fast racing. Six new box stalls have been built in the barns at the track and with these there will be accommodations for twenty horses at the track.
On the opening day of the meeting there will be a 2:10 trot and pace, which will be known as the Saranac Village Purse, and a 2:30 trot and pace. The first of these races will be for a purse of $250 and the second for a purse of $200. The second day's program will consist of a 2:24 trot or pace for a purse of $200 and a 2:17 trot or pace for a purse of $250. On the third day of the meeting the program will consist of a 2:28 trot or pace for purse of $200 and a 2:20 trot or pace for a purse of $250. A free-for-all for a purse of $400 and a consolation nice for a purse of $150 will make up the program for the program for the closing day. Any horse which has been started during the meet and has not won better than third money will be eligible to start in the consolation race. Trotters will be allowed four seconds in any event in which they are started.
Among horses owned in Saranac Lake that compete in races are Schuyler Gratton, Georgia Regina and Francis MacMillan of the stables of Postmaster James A. Latour; H. K. B., and Sheila Frisco, owned by William H. Gibney; Dizz Patch, owned by Phil Adler; Jack Dempsey, owned by Gordon LeClaire; Edward Ottoman, Jr., owned by Ed LaBounty; Arab, owned by Lester Vosburgh and Jessie Chimas, owned by Lionel F. Miller.
In addition to the light harness races scheduled for the meeting there will be dog team races, and a number of events arranged for the entertainment of the spectators.
Trotter and Pacer magazine, March 29, 1928
New Fair Society Formed at Saranac Lake
By Irving Parmeter
WATERTOWN, N. Y., March 24.
PURCHASE of the Vosburg property, embracing 300 acres with race track, stables and buildings, was decided upon at a meeting this week at Saranac Lake of the Adirondack Fair Association, incorporated January 31. With consummation of the purchase, it is planned immediately to start work putting the grounds in condition to give, if possible, the first fair and race meeting of the association at Saranac Lake in August.
Incorporation was brought about by James A. Latour, U. Grant Cane, William R. Vosburg, James A. Fortune and Edward McGrath, all of Saranac Lake, the directors being, besides the foregoing, Francis B. Cantwell, Willard Boyce, Ray Burmaster, William H. Gibney, Sydney W. Barnard, Walter J. Mallon of Malone, and George LaPan. Mr. Mallon is former race secretary of the Franklin County Agricultural society. Officers were elected as follow; James A. Latour, president; Willard Boyce, first vice-president; Sydney W. Barnard, second vice-president; George LaPan, secretary; Walter J. Mallon, race secretary; George LaPan, treasurer; William R. Vosburg, superintendent.
The Vosburg property will cost $15,000, upon which a payment has been made. The society has subscriptions representing $8,000. A new, regulation track, with graded turns, will be laid out on the site of the old course, which has been in existence for many years.
Authorization for the village officials of Cape Vincent to purchase the fair grounds and race track of the Cape Vincent Agricultural society was given at the village election held Tuesday, March 16. The vote authorized expenditure of $3,600 for this purpose. Consummation of the sale is expected within a few weeks. The grounds will be used as a village park.
The Cape Vincent Agricultural society is a stock organization and one of the few town fairs remaining in Northern New York. For 47 years it has conducted annually a race meet and agricultural exhibit in the village, usually claiming dates just after the Watertown exposition and running a three days' race meet. In the last few seasons the association has lost money. Until some 30 years ago there were many town fairs in the state, Jefferson county having in the Carthage and Antwerp associations besides the county fair in this city. With elimination of the Cape Vincent organization only four community associations will be left in this "north country"—the Racquette Valley and St. Regis Valley society at Potsdam, the Gouverneur Agricultural and Mechanical society and the Oswegatchie association in Ogdensburg, all of St. Lawrence county, with the Orewall, Boylston and Sandy Creek society at Sandy Creek.
The Witter county fair bill, which became a law with Governor Smith's signature, will prove a boon to many hard-pressed fairs. It provides $375,000, an increase of $125,000, to reimburse fair societies for premiums paid on agricultural produce and exhibit of animals. Race purses are not included in determining the state aid, although many horsemen have argued that speed contests promote breeding.
The maximum allowance, based on about 80 per cent of the premiums disbursed, will be increased from $4,000 to $6,000.
Lake Placid News, June 9, 1944
Saranac Lake Revives Interest In Horse Races
Efforts are being made by Saranac Lake residents to build up an interest in harness racing at the St. Armand race track and to affiliate with the Lake Placid Driving club, and other clubs in, Northern New York.
Several fast horses are now owned by Saranac Lake businessmen and interest in the sport is rising. Former Village Trustee Elwin W. Walseman was promoting the idea but he was called into the service and was forced to dispose of his trotter.
Those who are interested in the sport, point out that Saranac Lake was the center for the fastest trotting and pacing races in the state in past years. The races were held during the winter and summer on Moody pond and later on the St. Armand track.
They were at their height in the days when the Adirondack Fair Association held yearly meets and a sportsmen's show. The association dissolved in 1929 and could never be revived.
1. The Adirondack News, January 6, 1894