Northville — The last horse racing action in Michigan will extend through the summer, as Northville Downs plans a transition in its harness racing calendar and, eventually, venue.
Harness racing will run through September 22, instead of the previously scheduled break from June 10 to September 1, the Michigan Gaming Control Board announced Tuesday.
That moves 24 days of live racing originally schedule from September 7 to December 14 to warmer weather, at the request of the track and others in Michigan, where the sport is on its last legs.
“The MGCB supports Northville Downs and the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association as they look for ways to keep live racing viable in Michigan,” said Richard Kalm, executive director of the board.
“They believe the live racing calendar changes are in the best interests of the industry.”
Kalm issued an order April 26 allowing the track to offer live racing on Fridays and Saturdays from June to September, when Northville Downs originally planned a summer break.
Northville Downs received approval for a 60-date schedule in 2018. The track’s 2018 live racing season began March 2.
Simulcast wagering occurs throughout the year.
At the request of the track and the certified horsemen’s organization, Kalm also approved an earlier order to also permit live racing on: Thursdays, May 3, May 17 and June 7.
Northville Downs will not host live racing on the dates of the Triple Crown races: May 5, May 19 and June 9.
A housing developer, Hunter Pasteur Homes, purchased the 48-acre track facility, the last venue for horse racing in Michigan, and announced last month it will develop housing at the site.
Horses have run at the corner of Center Street and Seven Mile road since 1944, when the racing replaced a nine-hole golf course that had existed since the early 1900s.
Owners of Northville Downs announced it would continue operations through 2020.
“We are in the process of exploring multiple other locations to develop a first-class, state-of-the-art racing and gaming facility that Michigan will be proud of,” said Mike Carlo, the operations manager and co-owner the track.
The announcement of the eventual closing of Northville Downs came just days after Hazel Park Raceway, the last thoroughbred racing track in the state, closed.
A developer also purchased that land, also.
Northville Downs is the last track standing, for an equine industry in the state long in decline.
According to the gaming board and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, 11 seasonal fairs have standardbred horse racing events scheduled this year. They are the Allegan County, Barry County, Croswell, Eaton County, Fowlerville, Chippewa County, Mecosta County, Oceana County, St. Joe County Grange and Western Michigan Fairs.
There is no pari-mutuel wagering at the fairgrounds tracks.