Uhlan: Bedford’s Famous Trotter

During the 19th century, horse races that featured trotters in harness became increasingly popular in the United States. Unlike thoroughbred racing, known as “The Sport of Kings,” harness racing was a sport for the middle classes and gave rise to  a new breed of horse, the Standardbred. These animals were bred to work in harness, like the carriage horse so many owned. Standardbreds were considered sturdier than thoroughbreds and generally less high-strung. Everyone followed the races and the horses became celebrities. One of these early superstars was a horse named Uhlan. He was one of the first trotters to break the 2:00 minute mile and, most remarkable, this amazing horse began his life here in Bedford.

Standardbred Trotter Uhlan

The story of Uhlan’s career is recounted in a 1914 publication, recently purchased by the Society, called The Driving Clubs of Greater Boston (edited and compiled by John H. Linnehan and Edward E. Cogswell). At the turn of the twentieth century, wealthy Bedford industrialist Arthur H. Parker established stables on Old Billerica Road, calling them the Shawsheen River Stock Farm. In the fall of 1900, Parker purchased a mare named Blonde from a Dr. Alderman of Lexington, MA, paying less than $300 for her. The following year, Parker added a stallion named Bingen to his stables, purchasing him from J. Malcolm Forbes for a price of $32,000. Bingen was a well-known stallion and is now considered one of the most important sires of the Standardbred line.  Parker bred his new acquisitions and in 1904, the foal Uhlan was born. Early on, Parker recognized Uhlan’s potential, and ordered his trainer, Ed McGrath to begin developing the colt. Uhlan proved so promising that Parker was soon racing him at Readville and Charles River Speedway. In 1907, Parker offered his three-year old to Charles Sanders of Salem, Mass for $2,500 and Sanders purchased him immediately. Sanders enlisted Robert Proctor of the Readville Track to train his new horse, and Uhlan’s career as a champion began in earnest.
Continue reading “Uhlan: Bedford’s Famous Trotter”