Melissa Zajac charges down the stretch aboard Rally With Class.
It was one year ago today, on the eve of its 2018 thoroughbred racing meet, that Hazel Park Raceway suddenly announced it was going out of business.
“After nearly 70 years, Hazel Park Raceway is closing effective April 5, 2018,” read the sign on the clubhouse door. “We want to express our heartfelt appreciation to our employees, visitors, supporters and long-standing community partners.”
Owners Hartman & Tyner, along with longtime business partner Dan Adkins, pulled the rug out from underneath Hazel Park employees and patrons with no notice.
Horsemen and horsewomen who had begun shipping in from out of state the night before were left scrambling to find a place to shelter their horses. Patrons were stunned.
It was the end of an era.
The ⅝-mile track, built on the site of a garbage dump in 1949. hosted both harness and thoroughbred racing until 1984, when Hazel Park became strictly a harness track. After a 30-year absence, thoroughbred racing returned to Hazel Park in 2014.
After its sudden closure last year, the Hazel Park stables, clubhouse, and grandstand were demolished to clear the site for redevelopment, leaving Northville Downs as the only horse racing track in Michigan.
SPJ Award–winning journalist Dave Mesrey is a veteran copy editor who’s worked for the Detroit Metro Times, Motor City Muckraker, The Detroit News, and ESPN’s Grantland.com. The editor of Willie Horton’s autobiography, “The People’s Champion,” Mesrey is also a founding member of the Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew...
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