Campbell Park




Opening Day at the new Dufferin Plaza


Toronto Daily Star: Friday October 18, 1957


Speaking on Sport by Milt Dunnell - Sports Editor


Another Opening Day at Dufferin


OPENING day at Dufferin. That's what yesterday's advertisements said. Opening day at Dufferin . . . that would mean a cheap field of eight beaten-up beetles tip-toeing to the post for the first race, while the jockeys hold their whips in their teeth and finger in their caps because Mr. F. S. Open - the announcer says - is banging out the national anthem on his office piano. And the melody does sound familiar.


There'll be jostling and shoving in the wooden sheds where the sellers are located. Huge Wilf Umbach will be admonishing hesitant bettors to get down their dough to avoid being shut out and "there's a short line at the next window, gentlemen . . . no need for waiting." Whereupon the speculators take their time. They know the steeds won't go to the gate until the light goes out on the ancient frame stand at the paddock bend. And the bulb will burn while there looks to be another buck of risk capital available.


So you chug to Dufferin at a leisurely pace for another opening. You know the lady along the side street will keep your parking space open on her front lawn between the Chinese elm and the purple petunias. And the gravel-voiced guy with the Little Green Sheet will be willing to tout you on to a winner, maybe. If the line-ups are long in front of the mutuels, you can persuade a house frau to buy a ticket in the women's salon, an additional feature of Dufferin's posh appointments.


Anyhow, there always is room on the infield, where the grass is green, the company is chatty, and you can get an excellent view of the riders' caps as they bob down the home lane to the finish line.


What is so rare as a day in June? Why, the answer must be: Autumn afternoon, with a Racing Form under your arm, and a sawbuck to blow on improvement of the breed at Dufferin. And it's a logical place for improvement.


But where's the Blacksmith Shop?


BUT you're living in the past, man. This is a different kind of opening day at Dufferin. There isn't a horse in sight - although they do have pictures of some in the brewers' retail store that's up near the spot where the gate used to stand for races of "about seven furlongs." And the music is canned - not the vibrant, elevating stuff which Mr. F. S. Orpen used to coax from his piano - ballads such as "Bye, Bye Blackbird," when a steed named Some Pigeon won pot for $1,500 claimers. Today, you're getting "Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter." And they must be writing with a scratchy pen. Read more.

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Content last modified on May 18, 2008, at 07:00 PM EST