A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from April 21, 2010
Leaky Roof Circuit (small-time racetracks)

The “leaky roof circuit” (also called the “frying pan circuit”) referred to the small-time racetracks in horceracing, but the term was also used in baseball and ice hockey. The “leaky roof circuit” was the opposite of the “Big Apple” (New York City racetracks), which was racing’s big-time.
 
“Leaky roof circuit” is cited in print from at least 1923 and is seldom used today.

       
Newspapers.com
15 September 1923, Collyer’s Eye (Chicago, IL), pg. 5, col. 3:
“FLY-BY-NIGHT” HORSE RACING MUST CEASE
BY C. FRANCIS DONNELLY
(Staff Investigator, This Paper)
YOUNGSTOWN, O., Sept. 14.—
(...)
The publicity given “leaky roof” circuit, as the Tri-State tracks have come to be known among the horsemen, have occasioned a general shake-up, though the modus operandi of the meetings remains the same.
 
Newspapers.com
9 March 1926, Tampa (FL) Morning Trobune, “Paddock Gossip” by F. A. Ross, pg. 3-C, col. 2:
Such performances are all right on the frying pan and leaky roof circuits, but this is a real race meeting, and trainers should have the necessary experience before trying to prepare horses for racing.
 
Google News Archive
23 February 1927, Ottawa (Canada) Citizen, “Sport Leads and Counters” by Ed Baker, pg. 10, col. 2:
The present system of appointing unpaid officials recommended by each club, and therefore friendly to the club, is a relic of the days when professional hockey played the Leaky Roof circuit.
 
Daily Racing Form Online
28 April 1928, Daily Racing Form, pg. 18, col. 3 ad:
“Ohio’s Leaky Roof Circuit About Shot” by Tom Durkin.
(The April 28th issue of the Weekly Racing Guide—ed.)
     
13 May 1928, Springfield (MA) Republican, “Romance Romps at the Derby” by Henry L. Farrell, pg. 7D, col. 2:
HERE was a son of a fair sort of sire and the offspring of a gypsy mare from the outlaw tracks of what the jockeys call the “leaky roof circuit.”
 
Google News Archive
7 July 1929, Miami (FL) News, pg. 13, col. 5 photo caption:
CHICAGO, .luly — Vice President, Charles Curtis, himself a former jockey on the “leaky roof” circuit, is shown as he attended the first day’s racing at Arlington Heights, near Chicago, the other day.
 
Time magazine
Art: Horse Painting
Monday, Dec. 20, 1937
(...)
As a horse trainer, Townsend sometimes races his own horses, sometimes goes on shares with other owners. He travels with the horses, in a truck. His affection is not for the bigtime tracks but for the half-mile county fair circuit in Pennsylvania. Ohio and Illinois which horsemen know as the Frying Pan or Leaky Roof circuit.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Wednesday, April 21, 2010 • Permalink


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