Opening on July 3, 1926, with the American Derby and a $100,000 purse, Washington Park Racetrack, built by Washington Park Corporation and Illinois Jockey Club, became a home for the nation's finest thoroughbreds. Colonel Matt Winn and the American Turf Association bought the track in 1929. Ben Lindheimer and Associates acquired the track in 1935. A record crowd of 57,036 turned out on Labor Day 1946 to see 'Armed' break the track record of a mile and a quarter.
Racing here were prominent stables including Calumet and Dixiana with great horses Sun Beau, Whirlaway, Citation, and Round Table. Willie Shoemaker and Bill Hardtack battled for national jockey honors in the early 1950s. Nashua, jockeyed by Eddie Arcaro, beat Swaps, jockeyed by Willie Shoemaker, by 6 1/2 lengths in the "Greatest Match Race in American Thoroughbred History" on August 31, 1955. A.C. Nielsen estimated that the millions of viewers of this race made television-sporting history.
Marje Lindheimer Everett rebuilt, enclosed the plant in glass in 1962, and introduced harness racing. Other owners included Gulf & Western industries. Lastly, Madison Square Garden Corporation introduced nationally recognized entertainers in a concert venue. Illinois' first Sunday pari-mutuel racing in 1976 and first winter thoroughbred racing in 1977 were granted to Washington Park.
The racetrack's grandstand and clubhouse burned in a colossal fire on February 5, 1977, bringing an end to the track's rich history.