The following “Rules for Laying Out a Race Course” is shared from an 1833 issue of the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine. Enjoy!
Through the middle of the intended course, lengthwise, indicate the dotted line a b, and place on it blocks, or flat stones, firmly secured; the tops level with the surface of the ground, at O O; distant from each other, centre to centre, four hundred and forty yards, (a quarter of a mile,) exactly measured.
[Turf Times Editor’s note: the “O” character used throughout this article represents a circle with a point at its center–while also symbolizing the center points a and b of the circles in the Plan’s diagram]
Then, with a chain, or, what is preferable, a rod, made with long and thin pieces of light tough wood, with one end fastened on the centre pin of O O, describe the semicircles, c d e and c’ d’ e’, distant from O one hundred and forty yards.*
*I make this distance by the rule that circumference is to diameter as 22 to 7. Thus: 880 yards (a half mile) x 7 ÷22 = 240 diameter, half of which is one hundred and forty yards radius. By the more accurate portion of 355 to 113, the radius would be one hundred and forty yards two inches, making a difference of about thirteen inches in the length of the course.
Draw lines touching the circles, tangent, from c to c’ and from e to e’, which will of course be equal to the distance from O to O, or a quarter of a mile each; and each semicircle, from c to e and c’ to e’, will be the same, which make one thousand seven hundred and sixty yards, or one mile.
Or, after marking the exact distance of four hundred and forty yards on the centres of O O, draw lines through these points, at right angles, with a b; measure one hundred and forty yards on these lines, each way from O O; draw the parallel lines and the semicircles, and they will touch, as before, at c c’ and e e’.
The greatest care should be observed to get the distance exact from O to O, on the line a b; for which purpose, during the operation, timbers or planks should be laid to support the chain, or measuring rod; (one of twenty yards is a convenient length). Also, the rod must be supported in a perfectly straight or horizontal position in tracing the circumference or semicircles. When the latter are traced, pins, of durable wood or iron–a foot or more in length—should be placed on them at c e c’ e’, and at intervals of ten yards, (their heads driven six inches below the surface of the ground,) so as to preserve the measurement and lines. Permanent pillars, or blocks of stone, should be placed at O O.
The first distance post is placed on the drawing sixty yards from the judge’s stand, the second two hundred and forty yards, and the start sixty yards from the angle or intersection of the straight part and semicircle.
This plan combines several advantages over any other form—is adopted for many courses, and should be generally established. The straight and circular parts are exactly equal in length, and alternate; the ends are of a true sweep, of a periphery which contains the required length, and may be delineated on the ground with a chain or rod; consequently the curve is every where alike, and the change of direction, at the intersection of the sides and ends, is gradual and regular.
FROM A FRIEND.**
**[A friend in need is a friend indeed. The above essay is what we have been wanting; convinced that it will be acceptable and useful in all cases where new courses are established, and that it may serve as a guide in reforming old ill-shaped courses, of uncertain length.]
“Rules for Laying Out a Race Course,” American Turf Register & Sporting Magazine 4, no. 7 (March 1833): 356-358.