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  No Roar in the Motor City !     

Detroit Race CourseDetroit Race Course Logo

Detroit Race Course was one of those grand race tracks from the fifties. It was located in Livonia, surrounded by automobile assembly plants, sixteen miles from downtown Detroit. It started out as an open air facility, but over the years was modernized to a glass enclosed clubhouse and grandstand. DRC was said to have a capacity for 30,000 race goers a number that was never hit. The grandstand had the capacity to seat 12,500 while the clubhouse sat an additional 9,000 which included the Good Time Terrace dinning room which sat 850.  There was parking for 10,000 cars and the stables could accommodate 1,600 horses. When the track first opened it included an inner half mile oval for harness racing. That track was expanded to five eights of a mile until it was totally eliminated and both breeds shared the mile oval.

The signature event at Detroit Race Course, was the Michigan Mile, which ironically was run at one mile and one eight. Over the years it attracted some of the top handicap horses in the country. It ended it's run as a Grade II stake, with a $250,000 purse. At one point it was run for $300,000. The harness meet which was said to be run at Wolverine Harness Raceway (Really Detroit Race Course) was once part of the Grand Circuit and featured yearly events like the Motor City Pace  and Matron series. In 1980 Wolverine Raceway was listed as number fourteen in the country for purse distribution. Today including itself eight of the fourteen tracks no longer exist, now that say's something!         

Detroit Race CourseNot So Good Any More

In 1950 after not even missing one year, the promise to replace the old fairgrounds track is kept. The new plant is called Detroit Race Course, located in Livonia a suburb of Detroit. Detroit Race Course even retains the "det" daily racing form abbreviation used at the old fairgrounds track. The Town of Livonia becomes a city to obtain revenue from the track. Detroit Race Course also adds harness racing to become the first Michigan track to host two breeds. The harness meet would be known as Wolverine Raceway. It started as a half mile inner track and eventually was moved to the mile thoroughbred track.

It is September of 1968, the Tigers are a powerhouse in baseball, Denny McLain is about to win his 30th game and crosstown horse of the year Damascus is loading in the gate about to be upset in The Michigan Mile. The sixties have been good to Detroit, the track even adjusts it start time to coincide with auto plant shift changes, but this is the high point for both city, and track.

The seventies are still good for Detroit Race Course, Sunday racing begins in 1974, but the racetrack is not king in Michigan anymore. In 1972 a State Lottery is authorized and the gambling dollar starts to get divided.

In 1985 the track is sold to Ladbrokes a British Bookmaker, Ladbrokes wasn't known for actually running a race track but probably saw this as the only option to secure Off Track Betting sites in the states. Ladbrokes wasted no time in trimming the fat when it eliminated the long standing harness meet known as  Wolverine. In 1987 Detroit Race Course hosted the first simulcast race in Michigan, the Kentucky Derby.

In the Nineties Ladbrokes realized it's dream when,  full card simulcasting is legalized in Michigan. DRC becomes the first to utilize the new law in January of 1996, the dream would turn into a nightmare. Even with simulcasting Detroit Race Course doesn't get to see fifty years. In 1998 it is sold for scrap, one year short of its Golden Anniversary.

In 2013 Detroit Race Course is long gone, there is no sign it ever existed no marker, no street names to indicate what it was, just a warehouse sitting in a weedy patch of dirt.

I did make it to Detroit Race Course once in my life, it was the tale end of a day, night affair that started at Hazel Park. It was a good day at Hazel Park, so I convinced the old navy buddy I was visiting that it would be great if I could get to see Detroit Race Course. By the time we got there he was driving my car, I remember pulling into a well manicured driveway leading up to the track, DRC seemed pretty upscale in the mid seventies. Inside the Wolverine meet had just kicked off and in the first race I bet fifty bucks on a horse that paid nine in change. The next thing I remember was waking up broke at my friends house in Bay City. Guess I had a good time!