Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

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Has Michigan hosted its last parimutuel horse race?

That could wind up being the case now that a Planned Unit Development negotiation period for the relocation of Northville Downs has passed, with Plymouth Township’s Board of Trustees rescinding the draft PUD agreement and closing the door on any time extensions.

The last day of live racing at the 80-year-old facility in Northville was held on Feb. 3. The track’s owners purchased a 128-acre parcel of land a few miles down the road in Plymouth Township, ostensibly to relocate the harness track there. But after a promising start, the relationship between the track’s owners and Plymouth’s trustees eventually soured, to the point where on Monday Plymouth Supervisor Kurt Heise told US Bets, “The Township is no longer interested in pursuing this project.”

As for the existing Northville Downs site, it’s slated to be torn down and transformed into a mixed-use development with parkland and housing.

‘A stressor for our horsemen’

Michigan was once home to half a dozen harness racing tracks, according to the industry publication Harness Racing Update. Now, for the time being, it’s down to zero, although the summer fair circuit will mean the sport won’t be entirely extinct in the Wolverine State.

Tom Barrett, the president of the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association, called Northville’s closure and its bleak prospects of reopening “not a good thing by any stretch,” adding that Michigan horsemen are “a resilient bunch” who will travel to neighboring states (like Ohio) and provinces (like Ontario) to race.

That being said, he also told Harness Racing Update, “I’m not going to kid you — not having a parimutuel track in Michigan for a period of time is certainly going to be a stressor for our horsemen, having to travel more and spend more to get their horses raced.”

Northville Downs management did not respond to requests for comment.

Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Author Name Mike Seely
Publication Date  2/28/2024