As a kid who was lucky enough to grow up in the horse business, I feel it’s fair to say the sport of harness racing has seen better days. Stained yellow photographs stand in my father’s living room, pictures of packed stands, people smiling, yelling, and enjoying what it was Windsor had to offer.
Where have they all gone? Today, what Windsor has to offer is much different than the glory years of the track, in the 1970s and 80s. Big races still come to town, but you’d never know it. Strict liquor laws, a confusing and intimidating betting process, little to no legitimate advertisement, and it’s no wonder why there’s no more excitement at Windsor Raceway.
It was once a place to go for a great family dinner, and to hang out in the beautiful upstairs clubhouse and feel the ‘old Windsor’ coursing through the veins of the place. The shouts of ‘Get up with that horse!’ made others confused, but to me it made perfect sense. The nag he bet was ‘quitting’. Unless you’re one of the few ‘rat tracks’ left around, you may have never even been to the track, much less the backstretch – where the real action is!
But on the off chance that when there was nothing else going down and you decided to give it a whirl, you’ll walk in, and to your left, there’s the ‘saving grace’ of our sport – slot machines. Keep going, young one. The real action is upstairs.
After heading up a few escalators you’ll find yourself on the main floor, in a whirlwind, no doubt. You’ll need to kindly approach a teller and ask where to buy a race program (they’re $2.50). After that, I’d advise finding a seat upstairs and just watching a few races, and seeing what you can figure out for yourself. This is not my ‘how to read a race program for dummies’ article – that’s to follow.
Simply said, the programs are not easily figured-out point blank, which is a shame, and it’s not often that an oldtimer will want to help (unless you’re prettier than I am).
I hope that with enough public information and awareness, we can reclaim what was once the crown jewel of this city’s economy, and encourage younger kids to get involved with the horses! ‘Cause I mean, come on… who doesn’t like horses!