AURORA DOWNS RACECOURSE

The Illinois racecourse of Aurora Downs first opened for racing and harness racing in 1891 and was operational right up to the early 1980s. It later became a harness racing track in the 1950s. The original track was just 4 furlongs in length and named Aurora Driving Park and was close to Lake Street.
In 1922 a new track was built with a racing circumference of a mile. It was built on the newly developed Exposition Park. The principal race at the track was the Illinois Derby, a 3 year old race run over 9 furlongs and first contested in 1923 when won by In Memorian, but  which was first held at the track in 1932 when the race was won by Sweeprush. The race continued to be hosted by the track for the next 5 years, with winners including Mata Hari in 1934, Sun Portland in 1935, Rushaway in 1936, Case Ace in 1937 and Governor Chandler in 1939. Racing at the track reached a peak in 1937 when a local newspaper reported an attendance in excess of 30,000.

The track closed during the hostilities of World War II but reopened again in 1946. However, in 1952 the track closed and racing, particularly harness racing, was moved to nearby Maywood Park. In 1955 the track suffered fire damage on 2 separate occasions, although racing was not taking place at the time. Nevertheless, racing did resume in 1958 after the track was renovated, although they no longer attracted vast crowds and began to find the climate economically challenging. The track closed and reopened on a number of occasions over the next 18 years before closing its gates for the final time in 1976.
Racing did take place on Sundays, but they were low profile meetings, and the track closed for good in 1981, with the grandstands demolished.
If you have badges, racecards, pictures of the racecourse or further details about the course, including your memories, then email johnslusar@fsmail.net