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The History of Horse Racing in Hawaii

In the late 1800's and early 1900's horse racing was a favorite sport of Hawaiian royalty, rich landowners, and plantation workers. At one time there were horse racing tracks on several of the islands but the sport died out in Hawaii by the 1950's. There have been several movements to bring horse racing back to Hawaii but there is strong local resistance to bringing any form of legalized gambling to the islands. The only place horse racing can be seen in Hawaii today is at some of the local rodeos, including the 4th of July Rodeo at Parker Ranch on the Big Island.

Kapiolani Park Horse Racing Track
Horse Racing Track in Oahu's Kapiolani Park

Breeding Race Horses on the Big Island
Horse racing began in Hawaii when the Parker Ranch on the Big island imported a line of top racing horses from the United Kingdom and the U.S. Mainland for the purpose of developing and raising thoroughbred horses in Hawaii. As a result of this, some of the horses racing in Hawaii were descendants of the great racing horses of the past.

The Hawaiian Jockey Club (1872)
The Hawaiian Jockey Club was founded by King Kalakaua in 1872 to organize and regulate the sport of horse racing in Hawaii. Among the prominent members of the club were King Kalakaua, Governor Dominis, Samuel Park, Major Cornwell, and A.S. Cleghorn.

Koko O Na Moku Horse Racing Track (closed in 1918)
In the late 1800's and early 1900's there was a horse racing track on Maui's Kaanapali Beach that stretched from the present day Kaanapali Beach Hotel to the present day Westin Maui Resort. The last official race was held there on July 4, 1918. That race track is pictured below.

Maui Horse Racing Track
Horse Racing Track on Maui's Kaanapali Beach

Kapiolani Park Racetrack (1883-1914)
The one mile, oval horse racing track pictured at the top of this page opened in Oahu's Kapiolani Park in 1883. It had a grand stand and a clubhouse and for many years it was the focal point of social activity in Waikiki. One of the most important events at the race track was the annual "Rosita Cup" which was held each year on King Kamehameha Day. The Kapiolani Park Race Track was demolished in 1914.

The Oahu Jockey Club (1939)
The Oahu Jockey Club was incorporated in 1939, the same year the Kailua Horse Racing Track was built.

Kailua Race Track (1939 through late 1940's)
The Kailua Race Track was a five-furlong horse racing track built in the windward Oahu town of Kailua in 1939 and it was in use throughout the 1930's and 1940's. The racetrack was popular with military personnel stationed in Hawaii during World War II and to encourage them to come more often, the Oahu Jockey Club lowered the normally $2.00 entrance charge to $1.00 for the military. The Kailua Race Track was nicknamed the "Pineapple Derby" by Yank Magazine. The track was located between Oneawa Avenue and Kainalu Avenue, near the site of the present day Kainalu Elementary School. The school was the site of horse stables that were adjacent to the track. Japanese farmers use to grow watermelons in the center of the track. The Oahu Jockey Club had hoped to eventually replace the Kailua Race Track with a mile long track with covered bleachers and a clubhouse, but that never happened.

Attempt to Return Horse Racing to Kapiolani Park (1949)
There was an unsuccessful attempt to revive horse racing in Kapiolani Park in 1949.

Attempt to Return Horse Racing to Maui (1959)
In 1959 a bill was proposed to allow horse racing on the island of Maui but it failed to pass in the House of Representatives.

Recent Proposals to Allow Horse Racing in Hawaii
-1997 Salomon-Tanaka Horse Racing Bill
-1999 (SB-476) Pari-Mutuel Horse Racing in Hawaii
-2000 (SB-2335) 5-Year Parimutuel Horse Racing

See Also:
- Equestrian Sports in Hawaii
- Other Sports in Hawaii
- More About the History of Hawaii

If you have any comments about this article or if you would like to contribute photos or more information about horse racing in Hawaii, send email to editor@hawaiitravelnewsletter.com.

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