Day At The Track

150 years of harness racing ends at Woodbine

11:00 AM 07 Apr 2018 NZST
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Woodbine Racetrack, harness racing
The once-familiar sight of standardbred races at Woodbine is coming to an end.

After almost 150 years in city, last harness racing card will be run Monday at Woodbine before permanent move to the renovated Mohawk Park

The era of standardbred racing in Toronto, which began nearly 150 years ago on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, comes to an end Monday when the last harness race will be run at Woodbine.

With Woodbine Entertainment removing the 25-year-old standardbred track this month in favour of a second grass course for the thoroughbreds, harness racing will permanently move to the renovated Mohawk Park, which has been rechristened Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Mohawk, located just off Hwy. 401 in Campbellville, has been the summer location for harness racing since 1963. The standardbreds were brought to Woodbine in 1994 following the closing of east end Toronto’s Greenwood, which had hosted them since 1874 following the closure of the Thorncliffe racetrack.

By moving harness racing to Mohawk permanently, Woodbine aims to boost the sport’s popularity by drawing on plans to grow the area as an entertainment district in conjunction with the Town of Milton and the track’s casino operators, Great Canadian Gaming and Clairvest Group.

“Our goal is to make Woodbine Mohawk Park an incredible entertainment experience for the Milton area,” said Jessica Buckley, president of Woodbine Mohawk Park, as the rebranded facility is now to be known. “People are looking for things to do (in the area) and the town is very supportive.”

When Mohawk has its celebratory reopening Thursday, visitors, racing fans and horsepeople will see the progress of the $10-million renovations to the grandstand, paddock plus a new restaurant, the Mohawk Harvest Kitchen.

There are 430 acres at Mohawk that could soon be used for additional businesses.

Standardbred racing’s departure from the Toronto market has been met with mixed opinions from horsepeople and fans.

By Jennifer Morrison

Reprinted with permission of The Star

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