Dufferin Park Racetrack

Coordinates: 43°39′21″N 79°26′08″W / 43.655965°N 79.435658°W / 43.655965; -79.435658
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Dufferin Park Racetrack
Betting at Old Dufferin Racetrack, 1908. Photo by William James
LocationToronto, Ontario
Canada Canada
Owned byAbe Orpen, Fred Orpen
Date openedHarness: August 15, 1907,
Thoroughbreds: Sept. 11–12, 1907[1]
Date closedNovember 8, 1955[1]
Course typeFlat Thoroughbred/Harness
Notable racesCanadian International Stakes (1942–1945),
Cup and Saucer Stakes (1942–1945), 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. The track was owned by Abe Orpen and his family after his death. Only 0.5 miles (0.80 km) in length, it was also called Little Saratoga.[2] The site is now a shopping centre.


Dufferin Park Racetrack, 1909
Aerial view of Dufferin Race Track, 1930
Aerial view, 1930. Photo by William James.

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.[3] After Denison died, Abraham "Abe" Orpen leased the land from Denison for CA$400 per year[3] 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 Horse race gambling was controversial at the time and the charter was revoked in 1909, although this was due to a legal technicality as the charter had not been used for several years prior to 1907.[4]

Orpen appealed to Canadian Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier directly and was granted a federal charter.[5] 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.[6] The Association was originally capitalized for CA$4,060, divided into 40 shares of $100 and six of $10.[7]

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. Racing was held into November, and often races were held in the dim light of the evening. 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.[7]

The track was a financial success, one of several successful tracks in the Toronto area. In 1916, Orpen opened the Kenilworth Park Racetrack in Windsor, Ontario. In 1917, Orpen was an investor in the Thorncliffe Park Raceway. In 1924, Orpen opened the Long Branch Racetrack in Etobicoke Township, just north of the village of Long Branch.[8]

Orpen renewed the lease in 1925 and purchased the track a few years later. After Orpen died in 1937,[9] his son Fred Orpen took over and operated the racing syndicate.[7] Fred would play the national anthem on a piano on the public address system every meet day at Dufferin to start the day.[10]

During World War II, Long Branch was closed and some of its stakes races were held at Dufferin Park. From 1942–45, the Canadian International Stakes and the Cup and Saucer Stakes were run at Dufferin Park.

Thorncliffe closed in 1952 and the Orpen tracks were sold to E. P. Taylor[11] and closed down in 1955, with racing consolidated at the new Woodbine Racetrack.[12] Taylor paid a reported CA$4 million for Orpen's tracks and racing charters and transferred them to the Ontario Jockey Club on December 1, 1955.[7] The final race was on November 8, 1955, won by Honeybelloo.[13] The Dufferin Mall is located on the site today.

After the sale, Fred Orpen got out of the horse-racing business completely. He built an estate on 400 acres (160 ha) of land near Alton, which he sold in 1972 to develop a housing sub-division. He died on October 28, 1978, at the age of 82.[14]

Other uses[edit]

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.[15] From 1951, the site was also used for a musical theatre production in a tent, called Melody Fair.[16]


  1. ^ a b "The Way We Were". The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on July 12, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
  2. ^ Tappas, Appas (October 4, 1955). "Purchasers Unknown: Branch, Dufferin To Change Hands For $4,000,000". The Globe and Mail. p. 20.
  3. ^ a b "Dufferin Racetrack". Lostrivers.ca. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
  4. ^ "The Charter is No More". The Globe. June 18, 1909. p. 14.
  5. ^ Munns, Tommy (September 23, 1937). "Scanning the Sports Field". The Globe and Mail. p. 19.
  6. ^ "New Race Tracks in Four Cities In Canada". The Globe. August 14, 1909. p. 1.
  7. ^ a b c d MacCarl, Neil (November 5, 1955). "Dufferin Parlayed $4,000 into Four Million". Toronto Star. p. 18.
  8. ^ "Long Branch Racetrack". Toronto Historical Association. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  9. ^ "Friend of Thousands; A. M. Orpen Dies; Funeral on Saturday". The Globe and Mail. September 23, 1937. p. 16.
  10. ^ Dunnell, Milt (April 29, 1955). "Speaking On Sport". Toronto Star. p. 26.
  11. ^ "E. P. Taylor Bids For Orpen Tracks". The Globe and Mail. October 8, 1955. p. 20.
  12. ^ "Toronto's Horse Racing History". Heritage Toronto. Archived from the original on July 15, 2010. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
  13. ^ "Shades of Bye Bye Mary As Punters Say 'Good-by Dufferin'". Toronto Star. November 9, 1955. p. 26.
  14. ^ "Fred Orpen, 82, ran racetracks". Toronto Star. October 31, 1978. p. A23.
  15. ^ Filey, Mike (2004). Toronto Sketches 8. pp. 168–171. ISBN 9781550025279.
  16. ^ "Box Office". April 12, 1952: 99. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External links[edit]

43°39′21″N 79°26′08″W / 43.655965°N 79.435658°W / 43.655965; -79.435658