Dufferin Park Racetrack
Betting at Old Dufferin Racetrack, 1908. Photo by William James
|Owned by||Abe Orpen|
|Date opened||Harness: August 15, 1907,
Thoroughbreds: Sept. 11-12, 1907
|Date closed||November 8, 1955|
|Course type||Flat Thoroughbred/Harness|
|Notable races||Canadian International Stakes (1942–1945),
Cup and Saucer Stakes (1943–1945), Valedictory Stakes (1952–1955)
Dufferin Park Racetrack was a racetrack for thoroughbred horse races located on Dufferin Street in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was demolished in 1955 and its stakes races moved to Woodbine Racetrack as part of a consolidation of racetracks in the Toronto area.
After a provincial racing charter was granted in 1894 to the York Riding and Driving Association to operate horse racing and sell liquor, a half-mile track was laid out on 25 acres (10 ha) of land on the west side of Dufferin Street owned by Charles Leslie Denison. After Denison died, Abe Orpen purchased the land for $400 and opened Dufferin Racetrack in 1907. Horse race gambling was controversial at the time and the charter was revoked in 1909, although this was due to a legal technicality as the charter had not been used for several years prior to 1907.
Orpen appealed to Canadian Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier directly and was granted a federal charter. Orpen, along with other businessmen incorporated the Metropolitan Racing Association of Canada, under a federal racing charter, which allowed betting on the site beyond provincial controls. The Association was originally capitalized for $4,060, divided into 40 shares of $100 and six of $10.
The track had its stables to the south of the track, along with a winter barn which was also used for offices. The public entrance was at the south-east corner of the property, through the stable yard. Betting was handled by bookmakers who operated in front of the grandstand and in the infield, and bets were also made on races at other tracks. Admission was charged to the patrons, although free admission was granted after the first few races. After Abe Orpen died in 1937, his son Fred Orpen took over and operated the racing syndicate.
Racing was held into November, and often races were held in dim light in the fall, at which judges would hold lanterns to judge the finishing order. In one infamous incident during these "midnight races" a long-shot horse named Mulock held up at the turn and waited until the horses made a lap of the track and then raced to the finish ahead of the others. Despite the controversy, the bets on Mulock were paid.
The track was a financial success, one of several successful tracks in the Toronto area. In 1917, Orpen was an investor in the Thorncliffe Park Raceway. In 1925, Orpen opened the Long Branch Racetrack. Thorncliffe closed in 1952 and the Orpen tracks were sold to the Ontario Jockey Club and closed down in 1955, with racing consolidated at the new Woodbine Racetrack. The Jockey Club paid a reported $4 million for Dufferin. The site was then sold for redevelopment. The Dufferin Mall is located on the site today.
The site was also used as the location for an annual travelling circus. It was used by local high school Central Commerce Collegiate for athletics meets. From 1951, the site was also used for a musical theatre production in a tent, called Melody Fair.
- "The Way We Were". The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- "Dufferin Racetrack". Lostrivers.ca. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- "The Charter is No More". The Globe. June 18, 1909. p. 14.
- Munns, Tommy (September 23, 1937). "Scanning the Sports Field". The Globe and Mail. p. 19.
- "New Race Tracks in Four Cities In Canada". The Globe. August 14, 1909. p. 1.
- MacCarl, Neil (November 5, 1955). "Dufferin Parlayed $4,000 into Four Million". Toronto Star. p. 18.
- "Friend of Thousands; A. M. Orpen Dies; Funeral on Saturday". The Globe and Mail. September 23, 1937. p. 16.
- "Toronto's Horse Racing History". Heritage Toronto. Archived from the original on 2010-07-15. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- Filey, Mike (2004). Toronto Sketches 8. pp. 168–171.
- "Box Office". April 12, 1952: 99.