HISTORY

Our History


1930's
  • On June 28, 1933 Governor William A. Comstock signs the law legalizing horse racing with wagering.
  • On September 2, 1933 the Governor and over 20,000 racing fans are at opening day at the Detroit Fair Grounds track located at the State Fairgrounds.
  • "Mayco" wins the first race and pari-mutuel horse racing in Michigan is made 'Official' when the 10-1 longshot pays $22 to winning ticket holders.
  • At the close of the 31 day meet in 1933 over 100,000 fans had bet more than $3.5 million on the Thoroughbred races at the Detroit Fair Grounds.
  • Through the 1930's the Detroit Fair Grounds track was the 'only show in town' when it came to holding extended race meetings.
  • The great Seabiscuit turned his career around at the Detroit Fair Grounds, with a new owner, trainer and jockey he won 2 Detroit handicaps. He went on to beat War Admiral in a two-horse match race, called by many "the greatest race ever" and then became a national hero.
1940's
  • Three new tracks and the start of pari-mutuel Harness racing.
  • Northville Downs opens in September 1944 as the first Michigan track, and one of the first tracks in the U.S., to present night Harness racing.
  • Jackson Harness Raceway opens in 1948 and in 1949 presents the first extended night Harness racing outside the Detroit area.
  • Hazel Park Race Track opens in 1949 as the first 5/8th mile Thoroughbred track in the U.S.
  • Racing ends at the Detroit Fair Grounds track after the 1949 Thoroughbred season and the operators pledge to build a new track in the Detroit area.
  • The Michigan Mile, which would become Michigan's premier Thoroughbred race, had a quiet debut in 1949 at the Detroit Fair Grounds track.
1950's
  • The Detroit Race Course (DRC) opens in 1950 and Livonia Township becomes the city of Livonia to qualify for revenue from the new track.
  • Also in 1950, the DRC becomes Michigan's first track to hold extended race meets for two racing breeds; Thoroughbred-60 days and Harness-39 nights.
  • Hazel Park began running two breeds in 1953, with a new 33 night Harness meet added to its 57 days of Thoroughbred racing.
  • A new Racing Law of 1959 replaced the original 1933 Racing Act.
  • The new law limited the Detroit area to the three tracks that operated in Northville, Hazel Park and Livonia. This limit would remain until 1995.
1960's
  • The pari-mutuel horse racing industry had grown steadily since 1933 and by the end of the 1960's there were:
  • four tracks compared to one - up 300%
  • 415 racing days compared to 31 - up 1,240%
  • 3 million in yearly attendance compared to 101 thousand - up 2,900%
  • $260 million wagered yearly compared to $3.5 million - up 7,300%
  • $20 million in State revenue compared to $123 thousand - up 16,000%
  • According to an annual national poll of attendance at different sporting events horse racing remained the No. 1 spectator sport in the country.
  • Michigan-bred Thoroughbred Bass Clef finished 3rd in the 1961 Kentucky Derby, the best finish ever by a Michigan-bred horse in that classic.
1970's
  • Total attendance of over 3.9 million fans for 1971 sets the record for Michigan horse racing, with 60 more Thoroughbred dates and 78 more Harness dates.
  • May 1972 voters allow a state lottery which started sales in November and pari-mutuel horse racing lost its monopoly on legal wagering held since 1933.
  • Bea Farber wins the 1973 Northville Downs driving title becoming the first woman to accomplish that at any Michigan track.
  • Sunday racing is authorized in 1974.
  • Glendale Downs, near Hillsdale, opens in 1977, after Quarter Horse wagering is legalized in 1976. It's the first new pari-mutuel track to be licensed since 1950.
  • Jockey Steve Cauthen rode at Hazel Park on Sunday, July 10, 1977, drew over 18,000 fans and caused the only $2 million betting day in the track's history.
1980's
  • Saginaw Valley Downs opens June 16, 1980 and becomes the first new Harness track to open since 1950.
  • The Racing Law of 1980 is signed by Governor William G. Milliken on December 12 1980, with immediate effect, tracks make changes that day.
  • The first Governor's Conference on the Michigan Horse Industry is held June of 1982. The industry is recognized as an important part of agriculture.
  • The 50th Anniversary of Michigan pari-mutuel racing is celebrated on September 10, 1983 and Horse of the Year awards are established.
  • The Detroit Race Course is sold to the Ladbroke of England and in 1985 becomes an all Thoroughbred track and Hazel Park becomes all Harness.
  • Mount Pleasant Meadows track opens for mixed breed racing in June 1985, after Glendale Downs cannot open to use its 1985 dates.
  • Sports Creek Raceway, near Flint, is granted a track license and opens for all Harness racing in November 1986, as the first new track built since 1950
  • Ladbroke DRC holds the state's first simulcast of the 1987 Kentucky Derby and racing fans can legally wager on the race while at the Michigan track.
  • Muskegon Race Course opened in May 1989 for an all Harness racing meet, this made Michigan unique in U.S. racing with two tracks built within 3 years.
1990's
  • Julie Krone, a Michigan native who rode at the county fairs, becomes the first woman jockey to ride and win one of the Triple Crown Races, 93's Belmont.
  • The Racing Law of 1995 is passed and signed by Governor Engler, re-titling the law and authorizing full-card simulcasting for Michigan tracks.
  • The first full-card simulcast occurs on January 30, 1996 at Ladbroke DRC and all Michigan tracks are offering full-card simulcasting by the summer of 1996.
  • Total wagering for 1996 increases 50% over 1995 due to full-card simulcasting allowing all Michigan tracks to be open for the entire year.
  • Muskegon Race Course suddenly closes on May 19, 1997 after running only 6 days of its live Harness racing.
  • Ladbroke DRC is sold for land development, had its last day of live racing on November 8, 1998 and closed completely at year's end after 49 years.
  • The Muskegon Race Course is bought, rebuilt, renamed Great Lakes Downs and opened in April 1999, giving the state Thoroughbred industry a place to race.
2000's
  • In January 2000 the Magna International Corporation was approved to purchase Great Lakes Downs and make it the sixth Thoroughbred track owned by the growing Magna racing subsidiary.
  • On August 7, 2000, Michigan's Julie Krone became the first woman jockey (or trainer) ever inducted into the Thoroughbred Hall of Fame. Her record included:
  • Winningest woman rider of all time with 3,545 wins
  • Riding 20,481 mounts that earned over $81 million
  • Only woman rider to win a Triple Crown race with Colonial Affair, 1993.
  • Co-holder for most victories on a card, five, at Saratoga in 1993
  • American Paint Horses were authorized to race, and on September 23, 2000, Cool Colors became the first Paint to win a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.
  • June 2007 celebrates the first, "June is Michigan Horse Racing Month"
  • November 2007, Great Lakes Downs closes its doors for the final time.
  • In 2007, the six Michigan licensed horse race tracks presented a combined 1,909 days of live and simulcast pari-mutuel racing during 2006. Over 1.1 million fans attended the races and wagered $281.2 million that generated over $9 million in state tax revenue.
Share by: