February 20, 2024

A Day at the Races: Entertainment Flows On and Off Track at Grand River Raceway

After more than a year of failing to chart any new territory, I finally stuck pin #64 in a new location on Friday, June 30, when I visited Grand River Raceway, a harness racino in Ontario about 75 minutes west of Woodbine (where I was for the Queen’s Plate).

The worst part of the trip was getting there. It was “only” about 60 miles, but leaving Woodbine after the races on a Friday put me not only in going-home-from-work but also it’s-a-holiday-weekend-let’s-get-the-hell-out-of-dodge traffic.

In my younger years I’d have been anxiety-riddled missing the first race on the card, but the point was to experience the venue and some races at it, so I just jammed some tunes and dealt with it.

It’s a great drive from Woodbine with pastoral scenes and small towns dotting the landscape once you’re out of Toronto proper. The track itself is in Elora, which is near Fergus and north of Guelph & Kitchener. That’s my way of trying to convey it’s pretty rural, and the track when running lights up the landscape pretty good. It’s a cool way to enter–reminding me of the final scene of Field of Dreams.

There’s not much to the plant. Two silos guard the main entrance and when you walk in you either go into the slots palor, or the grandstand area. The bottom level had a restaurant with the food looking decent. The apron had a good crowd with promotions between races, including a bouncy horse race that was a lot of fun.

The top level had a tiered restaurant that was packed but smelled powerfully of fish. There was grandstand seating up the stretch a bit from that with a hundred or so people enjoying the open air. The first turn featured the Lighthouse restaurant and bar.

Overall, this is absolutely a place I would spend time. The venue itself was welcome, but the kicker (pun not intended if Walter Case Jr. is reading this) is that the racing was decent at all levels. Most races had 8-9 horses with some decent form going off at decent prices. I only won $5 (Canadian!), so that assessment isn’t borne out of great success–just an observation that there were some scores to be made.