Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Closing of Northville Downs - A Bittersweet 80th Anniversary Celebration

 With more than 80 years of entertainment for horse racing enthusiasts, the oldest horse racing facility in Michigan, Northville Downs, held it’s final race on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024.  A piece of history being lost, as Horse race betting is the oldest form of legal gambling in the state. Northville Downs opened in September 1944 offering the first night time harness racing in the United States.  From it’s inception it has been in operation.  The “Downs” has been open from noon until midnight every day offering simulcast races from across the country.  Located on Center St and 7 Mile Rd it replaced the Wayne Country Fair where Joe Louis trained in 1939 for the World Championship.  In Michigan, breeding, training and racing standards dates back to the 19th century.  At one point, Michigan was home to six harness racing tracks. In the last 15 years, three of the remaining four tracks — Jackson, Sports Creek and Hazel Park in Detroit — have all closed. That left Northville as the only track left. This has contributed to a mass exodus from the state by people who race horses for a living.

With a unanimous vote, Plymouth Township reversed the motion which had approved construction of a new track.  This would have been built on 128-acres owned by Northville Downs.   With recent developments, it has left a void for horse racing in Michigan with little 

preparation for horse owners and administrators time to react.  Increased shipping and travel expenses have left Racehorse owners with few options, since they will have to race in other States to stay in business.  

While searching for a new home, Owners may have limited options such as Historical Racing machines - similar to slot machines where betting can be waged on past horse races.