Update: Live Racing’s Return To Northville Downs Pushed Back To March 12

Written By Julie Walker on February 28, 2022 - Last Updated on December 8, 2023
Harness racing

A new season looms for the state’s last horse track.

Live races kick off March 12 at Northville Downs, the first, and now only, place to offer harness racing in Michigan.

Races had been originally scheduled to begin March 11, but because of a lack of entrants, it has been moved back. The Michigan Gaming Control Board announced the move in a release Wednesday, March 9. The release stated Northville Downs Management and the Michigan Harness Racing Association requested the delay.

After March 12, races will happen at 7:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday through June 25. The second half of the season opens Friday, Sept. 9 and runs through Saturday, Dec. 17. Each race date will have a minimum of eight races and maximum of 16.

Northville Downs open daily for simulcast wagers

Northville Downs opens every day for simulcast betting at 11 a.m. and stays open until midnight. It offers Pari-mutuel betting, when all who wager on the winner split the pot, except on Easter Sunday (April 17), Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24), Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The establishment at the corner of Seven Mile and Sheldon roads was the first to offer pari-mutuel harness racing when it opened in 1944.

Northville Downs became the state’s only live horse racing venue in April of 2018, following the abrupt closing of the Hazel Park Raceway. It opened in 1949 and offered both live thoroughbred and live harness racing.

COVID restrictions lifted

After surviving months-long closures during the start of the pandemic, the Northville venue no longer has any COVID restrictions in place. The business, still largely run by members of the Carlo family who started it, announced a new lease in 2020, about a month before the pandemic’s initial COVID restrictions were enacted.

“Northville Downs is please[d] to announce a long-term lease has been signed to operate at our current location in Northville through 2024,” the release said.

In 2018, Hunter Pasteur Homes announced it bought the track with plans to use the land for residential and commercial development. Northville’s planning commission rejected those plans, however, allowing for racing to continue for now.

Mike Carlo, co-owner and operations manager, told Michigan Farm News in January that horse racing will continue past 2024, whether it stays at that venue or not.

“My brothers and I, with our partners, are identifying land to build a new racetrack in the event of us not being in Northville past 2024 — that is, pending extensions from the developer,” Carlo told Michigan Farm News.

Eat, drink and race horses

Along with live racing comes more menu options. Trotside Restaurant will open for live racing on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations hold a table for the whole night and offers a view of the racetrack. Trotside’s menu features appetizers, soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches and entrees ranging in price from $11.75 to $13.95.

A buffet featuring roast beef, baked ham, a salad bar, and dessert is offered on Saturday nights for $24.95 a person.

The concession stand offers pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and snacks. Bottle beer costs $6 a bottle and wine costs $4 a glass. Premium prices for liquor vary; well is $6 and call is $7.

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Julie Walker

Julie has written, edited and designed words at five Michigan newspapers and websites. She’s worked on two sports desks, including at The Oakland Press and most recently at The Detroit News. Julie has contributed to stories on many big sports moments, from the NFL's 100th season to Super Bowls to Justin Verlander’s trade to the closing of the Palace of Auburn Hills.  Julie loves lakes, bonfires, Dachshunds, coaching Little League and carrying on her Dad’s fantasy football legacy that he started in 1987 — before there was an app for that.

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