Hall of Fame


joseph s. coates

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The Goshen, New York-born Joseph Saunders Coates began his harness racing career in 1882. He was twenty-three years old. Within five years he had the two fastest pacers in the country: Joe L. 2:15 and Argyle 2:14 3/4. He campaigned on the Grand Circuit, winning his share of races. His most memorable and probably his most famous race took place in Detroit in 1887. After six heats, Coates, driving Joe L., bested "The Silent Man of Tennessee," Immortal Pop Geers, and his Tennessee pacing stallion, Duplex.

Joseph Coates was educated at St. Paul's Preparatory School in Concord, New Hampshire, one of the most exclusive of New England schools. In his lifetime, putting his engineering skills to work, Coates built and re-built more than twenty racetracks nationwide. His projects included the 1838 Historic Track, Goshen, New York, which he re-designed in 1884 from a four-cornered course into an oval, Monroe County Fair Grounds track near Rochester, New York, Maryland tracks Baltimore, Laurel and Ocean Downs, and Harrington, Delaware. He was a co-owner of the 1899 Good Time Park mile track in Goshen and was its original builder. The Hambletonian Stake was held there from 1930-1942 and 1944-1956.

For a number of years, Joseph Coates owned the Miller Cart Company of Goshen, manufacturers of an excellent sulky. Coates also designed and built the Coates-Goshen automobile, one of the first automobiles produced after the turn of the 19th century. Coates's autos were highly respected and considered a quality product. He built thirty-two in all. None were ever recalled. Unfortunately, in 1909, he was forced to yield to Henry Ford's automotive mass production movement and ceased building these horseless vehicles.

Considered the "Dean of Track Builders," Joseph Saunders Coates never wavered in his enthusiasm for the trotters and pacers and his great engineering skills served to bring faster and safer racing to every oval upon which he worked. He died in Goshen on September 19, 1951. He was 92.

Published in the Harness Racing Museum's 2001 Souvenir Journal