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Sports & Play

Off-track betting at the Greenwood Raceway

Posted by Robyn Urback / February 25, 2011

Greenwood RacewayGreenwood Raceway is the place most of us pass by on our way to the Beaches. On Queen Street East by Coxwell Avenue, it's that beige movie theatre-looking building that awkwardly stands out among the cafés and antique furniture shops unobtrusively lining the street. And then there's the honking illuminated "Greenwood Off Track Racing" sign. At least you won't miss it.

Once host to live racing, Greenwood has been a teletheatre for about the past 16 years. The actual races have moved to Woodbine Racetrack on Rexdale Blvd. north of the airport, so there are no horses at this location. Still, I managed to find a totally different animal here.

Greenwood RacewayThe first thing I noticed as I approached the front door was the wealth of "No Smoking Within 10 Metres of the Building" signs. But just like badassess with skateboards, four old men in toques puffed away on their cigarettes while practically hugging the entrance. They eyed me as I breezed past, and I could just about hear their minds try to make sense of the scene: "Mhpf. Girl must really need the bathroom."

But no, I was there to try to figure out how to make my fortune betting on a few strutting stallions. Greenwood provides simulcast coverage on 350 screens for races from all over the world; though walking in, you feel like you're in an airport going nowhere. Rows of salmon-coloured seats with wooden cutout cup holders line the space--all facing a wall. Suspended above are tube TVs (and the occasional flat-screen) broadcasting various races and stats. The pictures were moving quickly, but it was as if everyone in the room was frozen. And I, of course, was lost. This would be a recurring theme.

Greenwood RacewayObviously my face showed the confusion of a 15-year-old boy encountering a front-clasp bra, because an employee at the front desk offered to take a few minutes (or 50) to explain just how everything works.

"There are a variety of different things an experienced better looks at when deciding where to place a bet," he said, pulling out a program. I'm pretty sure it contained a series of advanced logarithms, but Chris (as his name tag read) assured me it was all relevant track and horse information. "You have the names of the horses, the more recent dates they ran, how they placed, which track, the condition of the track..." My eyes began to glaze over as Chris went on to explain the various statistical abbreviations and the intricacies of the dirt track.

Then, we moved on to how to actually place a bet. At Greenwood you can either place your bet with a teller or through a self-serve machine. Though Chris was gracious enough to walk me through the self-serve terminal, my mind was still stuck on his previous explanation about the difference between a "trot" and a "pace" and something called a "daily double." Still, I nodded and feigned competence and was soon left to my own devices. Five dollars in hand, I could've gone to the teller and again confessed my confusion, but I opted for the more private humiliation of the self-serve machine.

I chose a terminal and gave it a cockeyed stare. The man at the terminal on my left--probably 75 years old, plaid shirt, green pants to the ankles, ill-fitted toque (I was noticing a trend)--was done in about 20 seconds. After about four minutes, I had printed my ticket.

I bet on the Penn National race in Pennsylvania, which was set to start in 17 minutes ("17 MTP," or minutes to post, as it read on the screen). After putting in my amount, I picked my horse. A sucker for puns, I chose the horse named "Now and Zen," who had the worst odds (12-1) but indisputably, the best name. Next was the bet type. You can bet that your horse will "win," "place" (finish first or second), "show" (place first, second, or third) or a variety of other outcomes and combinations. I pressed "show" printed my ticket, and wandered off to find a seat.

As I walked through the rows, it was clear my estrogen was showing. The place was all men, all over 50, and it appeared some sort of head covering was a practical necessity. A few men in baseball caps and toques were gathered at the little bar on the west side, some others around a table on the east end by the canteen selling veal on a bun ($5.25) and bacon strips ($0.50 each).

Greenwood RacewayBy some stroke of luck, I had managed to plop down in front of a TV that would be showing the Penn National race. Ticket in hand, I eagerly watched the screen. For a moment I felt just like I was at the Kentucky Derby--without the obscene drunkenness. The race started, and after 20 seconds (or so it seemed) it was over. That punk Now and Zen--well he finished fifth, and I walked out empty-handed. Next time, I vowed, I'd bring some friends, pay attention to the odds, and maybe have a beer or two. And, of course, I'd have to wear a toque.



Richard / February 25, 2011 at 09:58 am
"I went to an off track betting parlour, and some guys were smoking out-front, and there were tv's playing horse races, and i bet on one, and then i sat and watched the race."

Great job. Gold star for journalism.
LJ replying to a comment from Richard / February 25, 2011 at 10:02 am
this isn't journalism Richard, it's just writing and blogging.
gonzo / February 25, 2011 at 10:04 am
At least Blog TO isn't limiting their snobbery to just the suburbs.
creal / February 25, 2011 at 10:08 am
I like reading these posts. Richard is a dick.
skeeter / February 25, 2011 at 10:14 am
i went inside that place once. it's a weird scene.
The Real Mike W / February 25, 2011 at 10:20 am
Good post. I pass this place every day, and wish these low-lifes actually respected others and themselves by smoking AWAY from the building. The irony is, there is a gym next door.
Richard replying to a comment from LJ / February 25, 2011 at 10:21 am
Its barely that
zxc / February 25, 2011 at 10:24 am
When will people realize that the city and cops don't give a damn about people smoking where they shouldn't smoke. I have never seen anyone get a ticket for smoking or littering or loitering or anything like that. There are bigger problems the authorities would rather tackle. There must be dozens of laws that are not enforced in this city.
alcd / February 25, 2011 at 10:33 am
I second that Richard's a dick. I always wanted to know what happened in there.
steve / February 25, 2011 at 10:36 am
50 cent bacon?! Sign me up!
Lindsay Lafreniere / February 25, 2011 at 10:50 am
Hrmm it's not really a "movie theatre-looking building" because there is a movie theatre attached to it!

I've been interested in what happens in there too. Sounds terribly boring though! I'm guessing you weren't allowed to take photos inside?
M / February 25, 2011 at 10:58 am
Sorry. I'm with Richard. Even if this was blogging, it's still very dry and written like a 12 year old was behind the keyboard. Sorry.
Randy replying to a comment from Lindsay Lafreniere / February 25, 2011 at 11:23 am
@Lindsay Lafreniere,

"I've been interested in what happens in there too. Sounds terribly boring though! I'm guessing you weren't allowed to take photos inside?"

Good point. Photos are not allowed inside any provincially-run gambling establishments in Ontario. I know this because of the incredible frustration I went through years ago for a shoot that required the inside of a casino, which we ended up doing down south.
Mapquest / February 25, 2011 at 11:39 am
Technically it's located at the corner of Queen St.E. & Kingston Rd. It's 2 blocks from Coxwell.
Sarah replying to a comment from Mapquest / February 25, 2011 at 11:56 am
How Many Yards is it from Lakeshore Blvd East?
Mapquest replying to a comment from Sarah / February 25, 2011 at 01:06 pm
What's your point? Was Lakeshore Blvd East mentioned as a location for this establishment? NO

I'm pointing out that if you arrive at Queen St. East & Coxwell as noted, you won't find Greenwood Off Track Wagering.

To be even more anal about it, it's at Queen St. East & Orchard Park Blvd.

Follow the smoke from the four old men in toques puffing away on their cigarettes while practically hugging the entrance.
Aaron replying to a comment from Mapquest / February 25, 2011 at 02:26 pm

Are you just Richard in disguise?
Mapquest replying to a comment from Aaron / February 25, 2011 at 03:43 pm
No, I think Richard is a dick too.

That quote of Robyn's was just too funny to not be repeated again.

Snap / February 25, 2011 at 05:44 pm
The guy at the front desk really shouldn't have been giving you that much information. He should have given you a program and showed you the basics (number of the horse, name of the horse, how the odds work [high makes more money but low wins more often] and that most first timers win by name or colour of the horse). Five minutes tops.

I hope you didn't eat anything while you were there. Especially if it was the old guy serving (only 3 of the 7 people in the food stand wash their hands/know what they're doing). This is another fault of the incompetent management. You can see the mismanagement at every level in the company.

Greenwood, and all of Woodbine (WEG), is a joke. The only reason either of them exist right now is because of the OLG slots. Woodbine would have gone bankrupt 10 years ago if the OLG didn't move in. It would go bankrupt immediately if the OLG moved out.

@The Real Mike W: the gym is not for working out. It's for people to look pretty while "working out" and to pick each other up.

@Randy: Photos are permitted in WEG establishments as long as you are not taking pictures of the customers. It says so right on their programs.

Greenwood is located at Queen and Kingston but you can't get there from a station unless you take the the Coxwell bus (which will drop you off at Queen and Kingston).
Snap / February 25, 2011 at 05:47 pm
The smoking problem won't go away because the management doesn't care. The city has never given tickets out and I don't see it happening in the future. I've only actually seen two people get tickets for smoking (same incident), caught by the cops on TTC property.
Jimmy Chomsky / February 25, 2011 at 09:13 pm
I agree with Richard.

Also, what's wrong with smoking a cigarette, having a shot of CC and waiting for your pony to come in? A man's gotta have hobbies in this world. Come on. Everyone lets off steam a little differently.
bill goldstein / July 10, 2012 at 09:23 am
I lost my man's purse at yonge and Eglinton on Mon. eve.-if found please call 4168491432 ext 234


bill goldstein .
Catherine / June 17, 2013 at 12:53 am
Does anyone have an old photo of The Orchard Park Tavern in the 80's before it was what it is now. Looking for an old photo of the outside or inside.
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