After 62 years, live harness racing came to a close Saturday night at Hazel Park Raceway. The track, in an effort to increase its dwindling revenue, plans to return to thoroughbred racing next month for the first time since 1984.
Hazel Park’s financial struggle is part of a decades-long decline in Michigan horse racing, dwarfed by casinos and other forms of gambling. In the past decade, Michigan has lost at least four tracks: Jackson Harness Raceway, Saginaw Harness Raceway, Great Lakes Downs in Muskegon and Pinnacle Race Course in Huron Township.
Michigan has just four remaining: Hazel Park Raceway, Northville Downs, Sports Creek Raceway in Swartz Creek and Mount Pleasant Meadows, which has closed at least temporarily.
From 1953 to 1984, Hazel Park and Livonia-based Detroit Race Course shared hosting duties between harnesses and thoroughbreds. DRC then became a strictly thoroughbred track, while Hazel Park became a harnesses-only track. DRC closed in 1998.
This week, Hazel Park begins an estimated $250,000 transformation back to a thoroughbred track, replacing the limestone base with a sandy loam surface. Live thoroughbred racing returns on Sunday, June 29.
For the full article, see Dave Mesrey, “End of an Era: After more than 6 decades, harness racing comes to an end at Hazel Park”, Motor City Muckracker, May 5, 2014.