Week 12

Day 75 Sunday, October 16

We're starting out week 12 heading east from Dayton on I-70 to greater Columbus where we take I-270 into Grove City, the home of Beulah Park. Opened in 1923 Beulah Park was the first thoroughbred track in Ohio. Known briefly as Darby Downs in 1983, Beulah Park had a ninety one year run before closing it's doors in 2014. Actually the losing of Beulah Park, was more of a mercy killing, in decline for years, it was rumored that less than one hundred fans attended the final card at the one mile, Grove City oval. For now the track is still standing, whether or not we can get close is the question. From here it's a short trip to Scioto Downs, whose fate was much better than Beulah Parks.  

Scioto DownsScioto Downs

 On the east side of Columbus we have Scioto Downs a five eights mile harness track that opened in 1959. Taking advantage of the new Ohio law legalizing gaming, Scioto Downs was the first track to open a casino in 2013. The original track was left intact and the casino was built as a stand alone facility in front of the track. Today Scioto is 24/7 gaming facility with year round simulcasting, with live harness racing from May to September. Scioto Downs is unique in the fact that the five eights mile oval regularly runs races with ten horses. To encourage drivers to try a little harder from the outside Scioto Downs is paying a bonus for winning from the eight, nine or ten hole. There should be no problem looking around here before we head for another loser in the racino wars.

From Scioto Downs we head north on US-23, till we meet up with I-75 which will take us into Toledo about two and a half hours away. Toledo was the former home of Raceway Park which opened as a half mile, thoroughbred track in 1959.In 1962 harness racing was added and the track expanded to five eights of a mile. Thoroughbreds were eliminated at the end of the 1972 season, leaving Raceway Park a harness only venue. In 1977 the grandstand and clubhouse burnt down, the track was rebuilt and reopened in 1978. In it's prime many notable harness horses ran here, but like Beulah Park, Raceway Park was also in decline running only a short weekend only meet at the end. The last race at Raceway Park was in 2013, little time was wasted as the grandstand has been demolished, so about all we can do is find Telegraph Road and see what's left.

Jackson RacewayJackson Raceway

From Toledo were heading north on US-23 across the border into Michigan, turning on to I-94 for the hour and a half hour drive to Jackson, Michigan our final stop today. In Michigan we will stop at nine tracks, only two of which still have racing. In Jackson we're heading for the Jackson County Fairgrounds, where Jackson Raceway existed for sixty years. Opened in 1948 with nighttime harness racing, Jackson ran out of track in 2008. In it's day it was your typical half mile, open air grandstand which featured local talent over the summer months. Today the grandstand and track are still intact and every year there is some story that racing will return here, but it hasn't happened yet. After checking out the track, we can stop at The Frosty Boy, if it's still open, before we turn in.

Day 75 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 314 157.00 100.00
Total 22,219 12,099.00 10,815.00

Day 76 Monday, October 17

We've got a lot of ground to cover today, so lets get going. We depart Jackson heading north on US-127 which will take us to I-94 west, after a little over two hours we arrive in  Muskegon the former home of Great Lakes Downs. Opened as Muskegon Race Course in 1989, the five eights mile oval was a regional harness track, in 1997 after running only six cards, it suddenly closed. Trying to save thoroughbred racing in Michigan, after the closing of Detroit Race Course, the Muskegon track was upgraded for thoroughbreds and reopened in 1999 as Great Lakes Downs. In 2007, Great Lakes Downs called it quits, today there's not much there, most of the structures have been knocked down, but you can still make out where the grandstand and track were. Next we head to the next track to carry the thoroughbreds in Michigan.

Mount PleasantMount Pleasant Meadows

Our next stop is in about two hours on a bunch of back roads heading into Northern Central Michigan, to the town of Mount Pleasant. Here we head for the Isabella County Fairgrounds, home to Mount Pleasant Meadows. Opened in 1985 Mount Pleasant was one or possibly the only track east of the Mississippi River to feature mixed breed horses. The half mile oval with the traditional quarter horse chute, had a rustic open air grandstand said to seat 3,000, it also had simulcasting and from 2008 to 2013 to only pari mutual track in Michigan that wasn't running harness horses. Today the place is still intact, it is said to be a training facility the glory days of weekend pari mutual wagering long gone. Next, the ghost tour continues.

We leave Mount Pleasant heading east, for the hour or so drive on M-20 till it turns into US-10, near Bay City we take I-75 South to the town of Saginaw. Here, we're looking for the Saginaw County Fairgrounds, which from 1980 to 2005 was the home of Saginaw Valley Downs. The Downs was another regional half miler with an open  air grandstand that conducted nighttime harness racing in the summer months. Today it sits abandoned and not very accessible, so probably the best we can do is find Ray Street and look out into an empty lot. Now off to my favorite place Sports Creek at Swartz Creek.

Sports CreekSports Creek Raceway

We'll maybe not me favorite place but try to say that fast five times. From Saginaw we continue south on I-75 toward Flint (don't drink the water) from there it's a little west on I-69 to Swartz Creek. In less than an hour we're at our final stop of the day Sports Creek Raceway, unlike the other harness tracks we've visited in Michigan, Sports Creek is not at a fairgrounds, is a five eights mile glass enclosed grandstand and raced during the winter months. Opened in 1985, the track just ceased operations on New Years Eve 2014, never to be heard from again. Today it's for sale, if your interested, I guess if we can't get in we could call the realtor for a tour. We'll stay around here for the night before heading for the carnage in Detroit tomorrow.

Day 76 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 340 170.00 100.00
Total 22,599 12,269.00 10,915.00

Day 77 Tuesday, October 18

Hazel ParkHazel Park

Today we're going to focus on the greater Detroit area, before we head for Cleveland. From Flint we take I-69 towards Detroit to for about an hour to Hazel Park, where we find the aptly named Hazel Park. Opened in 1949 as a thoroughbred venue, Hazel Park has come full circle after alternating thoroughbreds and standardbreds in 1953, to running only standardbreds in 1984. Today the five eights mile track is only one of two that still exists in the State of Michigan. Live racing has ended for the season, but there is simulcasting here so no problem taking a good look. Next Hazel's cousin track that didn't fare so well.

A few miles from Hazel Park we come to Livonia, which for almost fifty year was the home of Detroit Race Course. Opened in 1950 as the replacement for the Detroit Fairground Track, from the start there were both harness and runner meets, until 1985 when it became all thoroughbreds. As the auto industry struggled so did Detroit Race Course, which was built between auto plants. In 1998 the struggle became futile and Detroit Race Course shut down. Today there is no sign it existed, the best you could do would be to find the intersection of Schoolcraft and Middlebelt, traveling to the last parking lot on Middlebelt you would probably be in the stable area a short was from the six furlong chute. From here off to Northville, where the last harness track in Michigan is trying to hold on.

Northville DownsNorthville Downs

We're going to take a quick trip up I-96 to 7 Mile Road, to Northville, the home of Northville Downs. Opened in 1944, Northville is said to be the first pari mutual harness track outside of New York. It seems not much has ever been done to Northville since it was built, making it not the best place to attend the races. Racing is over for the year, simulcasting is available so the place will be open. There is no telling whether racing on the half mile oval will return to Northville. Our last stop in Michigan is in a place called New Boston where Michigan's newest track has come and gone. 

Our last track is another short drive to a place called New Boston, where Pinnacle Park once called home. The one mile oval, with a small simulcast type grandstand opened in 2008. The dream here was said to be to bring thoroughbred racing back to greater Detroit. At the end of the 2010 season the owner was talking upgrades like a turf course, but in reality 2010 was just the end. Racino fever was running wild in the Detroit area at the time, but when it became clear that racinos were dead, so was Pinnacle Park. Today it's all gone, if we do get close there isn't much to see, so we need to get to the intersection of Vining Road and Prescott Street to find out. That's it for Michigan we're going to take the two and a half hour drive to Cleveland today, so we can maybe get a few hours at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tomorrow.

Day 77 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 276 138.00 120.00
Total 22,835 12,407.00 11,035.00

Day 78 Wednesday, October 19

We're starting out today in Cleveland and we're starting the day at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, before a double header of live racing. We get a few hours at the Hall of Fame before we take the short drive to North Randall and live racing at Thistledowns. When we arrive at Thisledowns we need to take a quick walk across the street to the pretty much abandoned Randall Park Mall, which was the site of Randall Park, which existed from 1939 to 1967. If you crossed the street by the main entrance to Thistledows you would probably be standing in the one mile and one quarter chute looking down the stretch towards the grandstand. That's about all for Randall Park, let's get back across the street.


All we're looking at here, goes back to Edward Debartolo, a real estate giant back in the sixties. He bought Thistledowns and three other tracks in the vicinity, Randall Park, Cranwood and Ascot Park. Except for Thistledowns the others were in bad shape, so he eventually moved all their dates to Thistledowns and developed the properties. Thistledowns is a one mile track built in 1939, over the years it had an inner turf course and then an inner all weather course, both gone now. Today Thistledowns is a racino, the only one in Ohio that was built inside the original track. We made it here just in time, today is the next to last day of the season, enjoy the races, then were off to Northfield for a change of pace. 

Northfield ParkNorthfield Park

When we're done with racing at Thistledowns, we'll take the short eight mile or so drive to "The Home of the Flying Turns", Northfield Park. Opened in 1957, the glass enclosed half mile facility is one of the few tracks in the country that provides year round live racing, as well as simulcasting. It seems like every track in Ohio that got a casino that already existed had a different plan, Northfield was no different. At Northfield the original track was left intact and a stand alone casino was built in the parking lot, opening in 2013. Tonight there's live harness racing, after that we'll call it a night, head for the last Ohio ghost in the morning, then off to Wailing Wheeling.

Day 78 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 18 150.00 120.00
Total 22,853 12,557.00 11,155.00

Day 79 Thursday, October 20

Ascot ParkAscot Park

From Northfield, we take OH-8 south toward Cuyahoga Falls, before downtown turn off on Graham Road west which will take us to Bath Road. Keep an eye out for Ascot Parkway on the left, follow for a few hundred feet till you intersect with Derby Drive, stop the car and face south. If it were sixty years ago you would be standing on the track staring at the Ascot Park grandstand. Opened in 1922 as Northampton Park, the six furlong oval was later named Ascot Park, until it closed in 1968 and it's dates transferred to Thistledowns. So give the old girl a quick wave and we're off to West Virginy.

Wheeling DownsWheeling Downs

From Cuyahoga Falls we take I-77 south to I-70 east and in about two hours we're in Wheeling, West Virginia. Actually this stop is a little more unusual than most, because it's on an island in the Ohio River. The half mile oval named Wheeling Downs opened up with thoroughbreds in 1937, in 1961 harness racing made it's first appearance at Wheeling. In 1962 the track burnt down and racing didn't return till New Years Day 1968 for a 32 day meet, the last time that thoroughbreds would race in Wheeling. Harness racing held on a little longer until 1975 when their run ended. Today Wheeling Downs goes by the handle Wheeling Island, a hotel, casino and dog track combination. We're going to camp out here at the hotel for a couple of days. Nothing live going on today, but there is simulcasting and gaming to take up our time.  

Day 79 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 150 75.00 100.00
Total 23,003 12,632.00 11,255.00

Day 80 Friday, October 21

Today the car gets a break, while we get a double header of dog racing, before a double header of horse racing tomorrow.

Day 80 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 0 150.00 100.00
Total 23,003 12,782.00 11,355.00

Day 81 Saturday, October 22

The MeadowsThe Meadows

After our stay on the island we head back on I-70 into Pennsylvania, to the town of Meadow Lands, the home of the Meadows. The Meadows opened for harness racing in 1963 and was the first track in Western Pennsylvania. In 1971, when thoroughbred racing was legalized, The Meadows did double duty as Pitt Park, the thoroughbred meets it hosted for a few years. In 2007 the grandstand of the five eight mile oval was demolished, to be rebuilt as a racino, during that period racing went on without the benefit of a live crowd, betting was done in a trailer near the main gate. Today The Meadows which recently celebrated fifty years of racing is a state of the art racino, with year round racing and simulcasting. The Meadows usually cards fifteen races, so we may have to cut that short to make post at Mountaineer tonight.

Mountaineer ParkMountaineer Park

From Meadow Lands we're going to head north on PA-18 to US-30 into West Virginia, and the town of Chester. In 1951 Waterford Park, a bottom level track for thoroughbreds opened there, it may have run cheap claimers, but it boasted of a turf course and an infield landing strip. In 1965, Waterford Park converted to night racing, which still goes on today. In the eighties the track faced financial difficulties and was sold and renamed Mountaineer Park. In 1994 Mountaineer became one of the first tracks in the country to have slot machines, at that time MTR Gaming was founded and Mountaineer was in the spotlight, even being considered for the 2008 Breeders Cup. Alas, the world caught up with West Virginia, neighboring states Ohio and Pennsylvania now have casino's. Facing a decline MTR once a kingpin in casino development has merged with another gaming group and on the racing side dates and purses are being cut annually. Sometimes it's easier to get to the top than stay there. Will stay at the casino hotel tonight, before heading out to Mountaineer's newest competitor in the morning.

This ends week 12, we did get to see four cards of live racing, five if you count the dog track. Next week should be our best week of live racing and it will also be the last week of the tour.

Day 81 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 70 100.00 200.00
Total 23,076 12,882.00 11,555.00

Tracks Visited Live
Week 12 19 4
Total 211 28

Week 11    Week 13