Hazel Park Raceway
Hazel Park, Michigan 48030
The Hazel Park Harness Raceway, located in Hazel Park, a suburb in southeastern Michigan just north of Detroit, is a harness raceway which first opened its doors in 1949. It hosts exclusively two to three year old Standardbred harness races, and is most famous for being the nation's first 5/8th's of a mile track. Currently owned by Bernard Hartman and Herbert Tyner, owners of Hartman and Tyner Inc., it generates roughly $550,000 in revenue for the City of Hazel Park and is one of Michigan's largest and most profitable raceways.
Hazel Park Harness Raceway was opened in 1949 as a dual breed facility. The first harness race was held in 1953, making 2009 its 60th season. At the time, it was the first 5/8ths of a mile track in the country. The track remained a dual breed facility until 1984; in 1985, it became exclusively a harness racing facility. In 1996, Michigan state legislature allowed full simulcasting at the track, which doubled overall wagering to $196 million in 1999. In 2009, Michigan state legislature proposed a plan to cut racing days at the raceway to offset funding costs. This could cost the City of Hazel Park roughly $180,000 annually.
In 2004 the raceway put millions of dollars into their facilities in anticipation that state legislation would approve the building of video lottery products. As of 2007, the raceway still hopes to get permission from the state to build the gambling facility. At the moment, the raceway does provide a poker room that hosts both Texas Hold'em and Blackjack and also holds charity games of Texas Hold'em throughout the year.
In 2004, the owners of the racetrack announced plans to build a 400 room themed hotel. It was planned to have thousands of square feet of meeting space, a fitness center, indoor pool, spa and whirlpool. These plans relied heavily on the passing of the legislature that would allow video lottery products at the raceway. Since the legislation has not given permission, the plans have not been completed.
On August 6, 1991, an FBI investigation was held at the Hazel Park Harness Raceway after allegations were made that betters were paying drivers to intentionally throw races. This sparked an investigation of past racing events held at the track in the previous months. One incident includes two horses, Ironstone Ross and Hallview Topaz, testing positive for a central nervous stimulant called Pemoline. A previous event at the track occurred in 1986 which involved both race fixing and illegal use of horse stimulants. Six men were indicted, and of the six, two were veterinarians. Charges against these men include conspiracy to drug horses, perjury, possession of unauthorized drugs, and falsely testifying at a track stewards meeting.
In June 1987, a fire started at the Hazel Park Harness Raceway, killing 15 of the 26 horses present at the time. The average value of a horse in the stable at that time was approximately $15,000. The fire started in a housing barn located about 500 yards from the grandstand while races were still being held. The fire was finally contained after 30 minutes of burning; the origin of the fire is unknown.
"Million Dollar Night of Racing"
On Saturday, September 29, 2001, The Hazel Park Harness Raceway hosted the "Million Dollar Night of Racing". At the time, this was the largest purse event ever held at a Michigan horse racing facility, with purses exceeding $1 Million. It featured 8 Sire Stakes, and attracted over 10,000 people including industry leaders, and state officials.
William C. Connors Memorial
The William C. Connors Memorial is an annual race that is frequently held at the Hazel Park Harness Raceway. This race features a one mile race for three year old trotters and a purse of $100,000.
On Independence Day and Labor Day, fireworks are launched at the Hazel Park Harness Raceway for public viewing. This is usually done after the last race of the evening.