Boxing Day Madness At Old Greenwood

It's Boxing Day (in Canada and other countries like it. In the States I think it's the day after Christmas) and as per usual, the annual Boxing Day card is held at Woodbine Racetrack.

This card - like many others - has lost its luster in the world of simulcast but there was a time that the handle and attendance was one of the highest of the year. Back in the 1980's and 1990's at Greenwood the streetcars would be jammed from 11:30 or so onwards, and the Gardiner Expressway would be backed up usually before noon. It's just the way it was. Horse racing was popular the only place to gamble back then, Boxing Day sales were non-existent. Where else were you going but the track?

Boxing Day at old Greenwood will be forever etched in my mind. The guys walking around asking if anyone wants a piece of their super seven ticket, because a 12-1 shot won the second leg; the lineups, the massive time between races, the weather, the wind, and the usual characters.

On twitter last evening a few of the guys mentioned the Jamaican crew who attended (and still do) live racing. They were talking present day Woodbine and the runners, but in the winter they were at old Greenwood in force. They would sit right at the top of the grandstand, as far away from the finish line as one could imagine, and they'd be a colorful bunch. They'd yell and cheer and have their favorites and the whole grandstand would know they were there.
I remember, for example, there was a Michigan invader at the harness races named John Moody who tried the circuit for awhile and he was one of their personal go-to drivers. He'd come out in the post parade and you'd hear, in thick Jamaican accents, "There's John Moody, John Moody gonna win this one mon. Go John Moody". They'd bet, and if Moody was in contention at the head of the lane, oh my, you'd know about it. If he won, holy cow the cheering would be insane, filled with some major high fives because you knew they were cashing. (I use the term high in double context, as there was always a general aroma at the top of the grandstand most days too.)

Anyhow, if I was late to an afternoon weekend card in the winters (being a student I was out on the weekends having one too many beer at times), there was rarely nowhere to sit but as high up as possible. I would sit near these guys sometimes and got to know a couple of them. On Boxing Day, one year, my brother - who did not attend the track as much as I did, but like all customers would know the Jamaican area of the grandstand - was late, stuck on the Gardiner. I was late too and told him I would meet him at the gate.

We walked in, and with nowhere to sit, we headed up near the Jamaican contingent. My brother says "oh man we have to sit up here? These guys are going to be loud". As we get nearer to the rows, one of the Jamaican guys yells, "Hey Dean happy Christmas mon".  My brother shakes his head and says "you've obviously been coming here too much."

He still tells that story. Me and my Jamaican buddies. A staple at old Greenwood.

Greenwood - being a downtown track in a city of immigrants - had that flair. It had pockets of enthnicities, and types and classes of bettors. And it seems they'd be out in full force on Boxing Day. It's not the same anymore, but it's something I will always remember.

Enjoy the card if you are playing today everyone. And Happy Boxing Day.


Unknown said...

I remember Greenwood well too. I went there as a little kid with my dad. Both TB and SB dates. It was colorful and I was sick when they closed it down. People from everywhere sharing tips and DRF's. Sometimes if we'd sit up in the higher seats 3 or 4 of us would share a DRF just to be nice, There'd be pencil and 4 kinds of ink on the page by the end of the day, but the exchange of "the brotherhood of man" was the real excuse. Greenwood was its own "Horsey UN".

Anonymous said...

I was just a stupid American visiting Greenwood, but some of those days were the coldest I've ever spent at a racetrack...We still yell, "Bringa da eyot(8), mon"


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