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  Hazy in Hazel Park !     

Hazel ParkHazel Park Logo

Hazel Park is a five eights mile track located in of all places Hazel Park, Michigan which is twelve miles north of Detroit. It has a winterized, glass enclosed grandstand, and clubhouse. The clubhouse seating 3,000, including a dining room, the grandstand 9,200. The track opened with thoroughbreds, then added harness racing, switched to harness racing exclusively and currently has reverted back to thoroughbreds, running Fridays and Saturdays, from May to September. Simulcasting is available year round. The stables can accommodate 1,200 horses. There is parking for 8,000 cars.    

Hazel ParkMichigan Derby at Hazel Park

In 1949 Hazel Park became the second thoroughbred race track in the Detroit area and the second in Michigan. It was the first track in the country with a five eights mile oval.

In the fifties Hazel Park became a dual breed track when it introduced harness racing in 1953. It formed a circuit with Detroit Race Course, one track running thoroughbreds during the day, while the other ran standardbreds at night.

During the nineteen sixties, Hazel Park experienced continued growth as it continued it mixed meet schedule with Detroit Race Course.

Despite recording a record two million dollar handle when "The Kid" , Steve Cauthen showed up to ride one weekend and paying out the largest payout in harness racing history, the tide was turning for Hazel Park.

Struggling for the gaming dollar the Detroit racing scene changed dramatically in the nineteen eighties as Detroit Race Course went with thoroughbreds and Hazel Park became exclusively a harness venue.

Full card simulcasting gave Hazel Park a boost in the nineties, the track could now stay open year round. Although it was a plus, the real prize was casino gaming.

After the turn of the century racinos were popping up everywhere and Hazel Park was sure they would be rewarded with one. So sure in fact that they started major renovations in anticipation of getting their racino. As it worked out many casinos appeared in Detroit, but at the last minute racinos were shot down leaving Hazel Park high and dry.

In 2011 Hazel Park, was one of three harness tracks left in Michigan. It still enjoys the premier summer dates in a circuit that includes Northville Downs, and Sports Creek. Eric Carlson came away with top driver honors while Brad Kramer who finished second, notched his 7,000 win.

I spent an afternoon at Hazel Park back in 1975. It doesn't look anything like it did back then today. Today it seems a little strange, the clubhouse which looks like it did back then, looks larger than the grandstand, which definitely looks different from back then. When I watch simulcasting from Hazel Park, they always show that little seating area in the grandstand, if that place seats 9,200 I can't see it! Well getting back to good old 1975, my memory is hazy but I think we were in the upper level of the clubhouse because I remember looking down at the track all day, plus the had these scary looking ducts in the ceiling that look like they came straight out of some horror movie. Luckily I drank enough beer and made enough money that I never got scared!