Rosecroft was built in 1949 by William E Miller, who began driving at the now-defunct Brightwood track and won his first race there in 1907...At that time there was only amatuer racing in Md, and no pari-mutuel racing, although the competition was fierce and enthusiastic within the many "gentleman's driving-clubs" that flourished in the area-
He bought the Miller Farm and according to his long time farm manager, (now deceased, but was interviewed by the author) took the top off the pasture above, and filled in the flood plain below to create his racetrack - it was initially used as a training center for the Miller stables for the first year, in 1948.
Early on Rosecroft was a charter member of Harness Tracks of America. The track was run by William E. Miller, then his son John, and later his grandson Bill. Eventually it was managed by advertising executive Earl Palmer Brown. Harness Racing as a sport was being promoted.
Rosecroft in the 70's was still a big stopping-off point for the big trainers from all over the country, as they made their way northward from winter training locals, from Florida and North Carolina, and other points in the warmer southern areas. Trainers such as Billy Haughton would "finish" their colt's education and ready them for the stakes they would participate in for the coming season, races like the Hambletonian, or the Little Brown Jug as an example. It was not uncommon to see great hall-of-fame horsemen doing their morning chores and qualifying horses at this track in the springtime.
Past area horsemen of note include Whitey Mansfield, Vic White, (who routinely set track records at Rcr) Austin Thomas, Earl Wagner, George Warthen, Harry West, Eddie Taylor, Bernie Offutt, Clay Hammer, Bobby Webb, Sam Roberts, Hubert Jackson. It was common for trainers to drive their own horses, and many still do, but the "age of the catch-driver" had begun, the sport began to specialize- many great trainers began using these drivers with success. When Wayne Smullin came on the scene, he changed the style as he was one of the earlier drivers to develop the aggressive racing style that is now used today before his tragic death in a Freestate racing accident-
Freestate Raceway was a shot in the arm for the waning Rosecroft and the high-powered marketing style that this sister track used was a boon to Rosecroft when the Laurel, Md track closed, - people who had enjoyed the racing action at Freestate were hungry for more, and handles went back up at Rosecroft. In 1990, the year that Freestate shut down, Rosecroft enjoyed the highest handle ever at that track on September 18th, handling $1,195,681 in one nights' betting. By early 1988, Mark Vogel had bought a controlling interest the Eastern Shore Racing Association, which now owned Rosecroft.
John Wagner became a major force in Rosecroft's harness racing scene at this time, becoming nearly unbeatable with a "rockin' and rollin" driving style that was popular with the bettors and onlookers alike-
The track was changed to a 5/8th's mile track during Mr. Mark Vogels' ownership, although an expensive project that did not increase the handle, the larger track has given Rosecroft many lightning fast races, - There have actually been two world records set at this track, on the trot by SJ's Photo, and recently on the pace by Nuclear Breeze.
Mr. Vogel owned both Ocean Downs and Rosecroft Raceway, but declared personal bankrupcty in September, 1990, after which Mr. Jim Murphy was appointed by the court as trustee to oversee Rosecroft. The tracks were then sold for 18.2 million dollars to Colt Enterprises, wholly owned by Mr. Fredrick Weismann. During the early weeks of his ownership the historic grandstand burned in November of 1991, with the result being permanent damage. It was replaced with a modern area, part of this was used as a "smoking area" for the bettors, and well attended by the cigar and cigarette-smoking patrons, meanwhile the grandstand and clubhouse adjacent enjoyed the "better atmosphere". A new indoor paddock was built, making winter racing more feasable for the horsemen and officials. An ad campaign was put on the Olympics and other frequently viewed TV airings. Mr. Weismann truly "coddled" the patons, and is credited with a welcoming style reminiscent of the Freestate Raceway's successful treatment of it's customers. However Mr. Wiesmann died in Sepember of 1994, once again leaving the track up for grabs.
During this time many youthful reinsman started to show their talent. Jim Morand, "Tommy" Jackson, were winning races, as well as the older respected drivers. John Wagner was the "king" however, and the younger drivers emulated his winning style. The "Canadian invasion" of skilled reinsman and trainers also influenced the development of horsemanship in the area. Among them to take up residence in the Rosecroft area is Lloyd Gilmour, of the famous and formidable Gilmour family from Canada. Among the more experienced horsemen of the time, the Pennsylvanian Roger Hammer was never to be taken lightly by his competitors when he came down from the mountains of Bedford, Pa. to compete at Rosecroft. Eddie Davis frequently would drive at Rosecroft and display the cunning talent that made him a leading reinsman that spanned several generations.
Rosecroft and Ocean Downs were sold in 1995 to Rosecroft Trotting and Pacing Association, which name was changed to Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc. For a short time it was managed by Bally's Maryland, Inc, which company loaned Cloverleaf 10.5 of the 12 million dollars used to purchase Rosecroft and Ocean Downs. Bally's ended up purchasing Ocean Downs, and eventually Mr. Rickman gained posession of the Ocean City oval.
There were a number of General Managers over the years, The Millers, father, son, and grandson, Earl Palmer Brown, Pete Shaw in the 70's, Tom Barry, Ted Snell, Dennis Dowd, Don Codey, from past years. Cloverleaf in 1997 advertised for a General Manager, with Gerald Brittingham heading up a Cloverleaf interim team that hired Tom Chukas.
Tom Chukas was the GM for Rosecroft under Cloverleaf's early ownership, during which time the inside of the grandstand and the barns had many cosmetic improvements, Television monitors were added in many areas and added to the patons comfort. In 1998 Rosecroft experienced a slight upsurge in attendance, and hopes for the track were high. Marketing and outreach to the surrounding area was sharply cut however, and lower attendance and handle was the result. The racetrack's financial problems began to increase. Various mortgage and sale wranglings were made to keep Rosecroft afloat. Subsequently Mary Manney was promoted to Director of Operations as Mr. Chuckas became the CEO of Rosecroft, then upon his resignation in 2008, Kelly Rogers took over those duties.
During these recent years the horsemen raced unabated, and continued to stable and train at Rosecroft Raceway as they had for generations. When racing days were cut the horses of Rosecroft would ship to race at other tracks, taking advantage of the generous purses at the slot-tracks and the Meadowlands, and bringing those earnings back to the Fort Washington area to spend. Stall rent and qualifying fees were instituted and willingly paid by the hard working trainers. Young drivers learned their trade against the older ones at Rosecroft, some getting their first licence to drive at this track. Those stabling at Rosecroft spent money in the community for their horses and themselves, reaching out in a friendly way that no other ship-in track could possibly do.
In the fall of 2008 live pari-mutuel racing was suspended, although simulcasting and non-betting qualifiers did continue. Rosecroft declared bankrupcty in June of 2009. June 19th, 2010 was the last night of simulcasting.
All horses and horsemen historically stabled at Rosecroft Raceway, after several court proceedings, were evicted on June 28th, 2010.
Before this, there was a special live-racing event, sponsored by the Preserve Harness Racing at Rosecroft Raceway group - as an accompaniment to the qualifiers which had also showcased our future performers at Rosecroft or other tracks. These qualifying races have been discontinued here as of March of 2010.
To conclude, this is a small webpage, meant to give history and point out the value of our local harness horsemen, We cordially invite any who support the horsemen to check out our Facebook page, Preserve Harness Racing at Rosecroft Raceway - This page has been very active and shows many more debates, issues and articles concerning our horsemen. is http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=30336041748
Attention!! We are excited as we form our new Preserve Harness Racing llc "group page" and switch our info to this page. If you "like" our group on Facebook, you can lend your support to our goal of Preserving Live Racing. The new fan page is here - https://www.facebook.com/PreserveHarnessRacingLLC
Thank you for reading our history of Rosecroft page.
Preserve Harness racing group LLC.