The city of Arlington, Texas will hold a special ceremony on April 9 at 10 a.m. to dedicate Arlington Downs as a local landmark by placing a marker where the racetrack once stood. The location is now occupied by Everest College – Mid Cites Campus, and the address for the dedication ceremony is 300 Six Flags Drive. After the dedication, attendees are invited to continue the celebration at the historic Top O’Hill Terrace. There will be numerous speakers during the Bankhead Highway Centennial Celebration, including Martha May Martin speaking on “Arlington Downs & the W.T. Waggoner Legacy” at 5:45 p.m.
Arlington Downs, which cost more than $2 million when it opened in 1929, enjoyed considerable success despite operating as a racetrack for less than a decade. In fact, pari-mutuel wagering was not legal at the time so a “no bet meet” was conducted that commenced on November 6, 1929. Pari-mutuel wagering was passed in 1933 and another $1 million was spent to improve the facility, which featured a 6,000-seat grandstand. Some of the top horsemen of the time raced there, including trainer Ben Jones and jockeys Tommy May, Eddie Arcaro, George Woolf, Buddy Haas, George Seabo and Johnny Longden. The Texas Derby became an important race on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
Arlington Downs was built by oil and cattle magnate William T. Waggoner, who also owned the famed Three D stock farm. The farm’s brand “DDD” was well known for racing success as well as with other equine endeavors.
Despite the popularity of Arlington Downs and other Texas tracks of the time, such as Alamo Downs in San Antonio, Fair Park in Dallas and Epsom Downs in Houston, the state of Texas outlawed pari-mutuel wagering in 1937, effectively killing the horse racing industry. Pari-mutuel wagering did not become legal again in the state for another 50 years.
The historical marker is in front of a concrete water fountain with images of horses and jockeys. It is the last intact artifact from the track in its original location. The marker and dedication ceremony aims to inform present and future generations of the impact that W.T. Waggoner and Arlington Downs has left on local, state and national history. The state of Texas also placed a historical marker for Arlington Downs in 1978.
For more information on the festivities at Top O’Hill Terrace, go to www.topohillterrace.com.