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A Week in November 1963: 50 Years Ago

Northern Dancer
Fifty years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. That November day in 1963 fell on a Friday, a typical school day for American children, until 1:30pm ET when we were told that we were all being sent home early because the President had been shot.
I am not one of those people who remember his childhood in great detail. I recollect the things I used to enjoy doing, but not with a lot of specifics. However Friday, November 22, 1963, I remember vividly. The strangeness of being put on the school bus to go home in the middle of the day combined with the idea that the President had been shot made the day remarkable.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as his motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository Building. Collectively the nation sat in front of their black and white televisions to watch history unfold over the next several days.

Over that weekend in 1963 I watched as Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the 36th President. Then there would be two television images that would stay with me forever. I watched Lee Harvey Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby during a live television broadcast from the basement of the Dallas Police Station and the image of John Kennedy Jr. saluting his father during the funeral.
Seeing the murder of Oswald on live television was such a powerful sight compared to the fictionalized shootings of the westerns and war movies of that era. John Jr.’s salute showed how hard it was for all of the school children and the entire nation to grasp what had happened in those few days.
Yet at the same time, life in the USA went on and so did the world of sports. After the assassination NFL Commissioner Pete Roselle decided that there would be a full slate of pro football games on Sunday, the day before the funeral.
Fifty years ago, also during that same November week, Northern Dancer came down from Canada and made his first two starts in the United States. After seven starts at three different tracks north of the border, the son of Neartic had come to run at Aqueduct.
On Monday, November 18, 1963, Northern Dancer ran in a $10,000 allowance race going one mile. Northern Dancer, who was not the favorite in the race having been sent off at odds of 2.6-1, won by eight lengths in 1:36 and the Racing Form running line described him as, “Easily the best” with jockey Manuel Ycaza in the saddle.
Horse racing would also resume and on Wednesday, November 27, 1963, two days after the JFK funeral, Northern Dancer would make his second American start in the Remsen Stakes.
Just nine days after his allowance win, Northern Dancer defeated five others in front running style to take the $28,000 Remsen, this time as a .25-1 betting favorite. This would be his last start of 1963 as he took three months off before trainer Horatio Luro brought him back at Hialeah Park to begin his three year-old campaign.
Fifty years later, Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States, a country that has changed in so many ways. The Remsen Stakes will have its 99th running on November 30th, as part of a sport that is also very different then it was during that month of November in 1963.  


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Older Comments about A Week in November 1963: 50 Years Ago ...

Did not remember this, although I remember that Friday in 8th grade French class very well. Thanks, Brian.
I totally enjoyed this, too! Not everyone thinks of the great Northern Dancer when it comes to November of 1963 except true racing fans!!!! But everyone sure does think of him when May of 1964 comes to mind! Thanks for this!
As someone who remembers dates through what happened in horse racing, I thoroughly enjoyed this, Matt!

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


The best way to get to know Matt is to check out some of his favorite articles from the past couple years.

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