FIRST HORSE RACES IN CHEYENNE
Mr. Hez Cox, Cheyenne Businessman and land runner in 1892, called together the people of Cheyenne to observe the anniversary of the Land Run on April 19, 1907, fifteen years after the “Run”. They had a picnic, a square dance and a HORSE RACE. This began the observance of remembering the Pioneers who came and stayed to develop this virgin land.
There were Horse Races every Saturday down by Sergeant Major Creek, west of town. Anyone who had a horse that he deemed as “FAST” could always find a match and a large crowd on Saturdays in Cheyenne.
This area has been called the “Cradle of the Quarterhorse”, with great bragging rights. Thanks to some men long ago who were respected horsemen, we continue the legacy of the quarterhorse.
Cyrus and Julia Armstrong with five of their sons had come to Minco, I.T. to await the land run. Before the run, Cyrus died suddenly but Julia and her five sons continued and made the Cheyenne-Arapaho Land Run on April 19, 1892 and staked claims in the Berlin area. The sons, John, Tom, Dan, Frank, and Reed formed the Armstrong Bros. Horse Enterprise.
John was the smallest of the brothers and a well-known jockey. He was unmatched in his ability to “lap and tap” start a horserace. He had a jockey saddle he handmade which was the “secret weapon” of the Armstrongs. Not only was it much lighter than the stock saddles used by the cowboys, but the ability to stay perched on it for a blazing half mile, was an art unto itself. Many a long-legged stranger learned this fact when after being beaten in the first race, said “I could beat you if I had that little saddle.” The Armstrong Brothers were more than obliged to let him borrow it for a race.
Tom and Frank managed the Armstrong Livery and Freight Business while Reed and Dan were the horse trainers. Dan was always in search of anyone who thought they had a faster horse. Billy Van was purchased from the King Ranch in Texas. He was a big golden stallion and very fast. Dan liked the big horse and matched him against many an unsuspecting gambler, who thought he was a counterfeit. One such person was a banker who owned one of the fastest horses of the time named Little Brownie. The date was set and a special quarter mile straight away track was made at Seiling, Oklahoma. Walter Merrick from Sayre, Oklahoma trained Little Brownie and arrived with the banker and a suitcase full of money. The banker found him a shady spot to sit, put the suitcase between his legs and started betting the money. Soon it was time for the race. The track had been made by straightening out a one-half mile oval. The horses approached the starting line each handled by their riders. D.C. (son of Dan) rode the big palomino for Dan. The starting gun was fired and the horses charged down the track. Billy Van had the lead, but when he approached the spot where the turn had been, he tried to follow the curve. Little Brownie surged to the lead and all seemed lost. D.C. realized what had happened and managed to pull the big horse back onto the track and with a few good swats with his hat, sent the big palomino home in front of the bay and the banker home broke.” (Story told to Dannie Armstrong, grandson of D.C.)