Dry Monopole, a small, athletic horse named after a brand of Champagne, won the first stakes race run on turf in the United States. Called the Green Grass Stakes, it was the sixth and final race at the Sheepshead Bay Race Track in Brooklyn on June 10, 1886.1 Going off at 6-1 odds in the field of ten, the three-year-old thoroughbred won the one-and-an-eighth-mile race in 1:57. Dry Monopole was the “class of the grass,” using the parlance of future generations of racing fans
The track at Sheepshead Bay was considered the best race course in the country. Established by the Coney Island Jockey Club, whose members included wealthy businessmen like August Belmont, Jr., Pierre Lorillard IV, and William Kissam Vanderbilt, the track had upgraded its facilities earlier that year. The new one-mile turf course replaced the steeplechase course situated inside the existing main dirt track that was still used for most races.2 In fact, racing on grass was slow to catch on. The New York Times considered the whole thing a failure, noting that “training horses on a dirt track and running them on turf could not have been expected to succeed…”3
The new turf course opened with little notice or fanfare during the so-called "spring meeting," which was the first day of the racing season. There is no mention of the turf race on the clubhouse menu below. Offering only a modest bill of fare, this card features a relatively good selection of Champagnes; The horsey set in high society was extremely fond of Champagne. Ironically, Dry Monopole is not among those listed.
The back of this menu has a quick sketch of a sporting woman, presumably one of the hotel’s well-tailored patrons who was in town for the occasion. The drawing captures the style of upper classes who appreciated the bubbly combination of freshness, delicacy, and raciness that characterizes a fine Champagne.
1. New York Times, 11 June 1886.
2. Brooklyn Eagle, 9 June 1886.
3. New York Times, 28 June 1886.