Greenwood Stakes made its inaugural debut on a warm Saturday afternoon, May 26th, 2018 at the Woodbine Racetrack, Hwy 427 and Rexdale Blvd (just east of the airport). On this merry occasion Toronto’s most fashionable men and women gathered to watch some of Canada’s fastest horses compete for higher purses.  Greenwood Stakes is a premier fashion event, and so as such its not really about the horses, jockeys, trainers or dynastic horse farms per say, but rather it showcases clothing designers, DJ’s and mixologists.  The whole affair started at noon; Post Time trumpets sounded for the first race at 1pm.

By two o’clock there were about six hundred attendees at the track-side enclosure; a cobbled appendage at the east end of the Grandstand. This area was made over with faux tropical trees and upscale patio furniture. The central terminal was a cavernous big-top tent that accommodated several HPIBET stations and cold food vendors (same as it does during Queen’s Plate event in July).  Outside the main area there were a variety of vegetarian and meaty sausage distributors, sushi makers, salmon rollers and a pork-on-a-bun shop. Angry Orchard brand cider was everywhere.

Presented to the public as a retro-fashion event, many attendees dressed in their finest vintage attire which they styled to resemble upscale garments in the early 1900’s. 

Historians would agree that horse racing was at its height in Canada at the beginning of the last century, an age before automobiles when horses were necessary transport animals. Horse racing itself served an important function to help refine the best breed stock. At the dawn of the twentieth century there were more horses than people in Canada and horse liveries, saddleries, and carriage shops and also equestrian riding schools were everywhere in the City of Toronto. Horse racing was also more common back then, and more dignified.

Greenwood Stakes Remembers the Greenwood Racetrack in Toronto

King's Plate 1906 at Greenwood Racetrack in Toronto - Archives
King’s Plate 1906 at Greenwood Racetrack in Toronto – Archives

Do you remember the Greenwood Raceway? The venue, formerly located on the south side of Queen E of Coxwell was first created in the 1880s, and lasted until 1993, when the Grandstand was demolished (drastically remodeled) and the racetrack itself became luxury town homes. Historians would agree a circular ‘track’ probably existed on this site even before the 1880’s, as there were always people racing horses along the lake shore, and in the marsh east of town. This was the origin point (or terminus) of the Kingston road, and so it makes sense that an equestrian facility and racetrack would thrive there.

King's Plate 1907 at Greenwood Racetrack in Toronto - Archives
King’s Plate 1907 at Greenwood Racetrack in Toronto – Archives

When the Greenwood Racetrack was first built at the junction of Kingston Road and Queen Street East there was only a narrow strip of land between it and Lake Ontario. The crowd in the grandstands would have enjoyed a marvelous view of the sailboats on the lake. Today there is a bigger sandier beach and a much expanded Leslie St spit.

Above is a photo a the track in the 1970’s, the Kings Plate

Greenwood Stakes pays homage to the beloved Greenwood Racetrack. Around two o’clock at Woodbine there was an extra special horse race which was the featured event at this ‘staked’ race event.

Photo finishes are still dramatic – that hasn’t changed.  We all waited anxiously with our tickets to know the winner.  This author will endeavour to find the more notable equestrian information and publish it here for posterity.

The were plenty of Great Gatsby moments at Woodbine during the Greenwood Stakes on 26 May 2018

How people make their wagers evidences their experience with equestrian sport; this author won $52 in Race Four with a $1 box-bet exactor (total bet = $2) combining the second horse and the fifth horse. These horses were piloted by Patrick Husbands and Sunny Singh respectively, and that’s how this reasonably experienced gambler decides. My bets combine the best men (and women) jockeys irrespective of their horses. Below is how my friend Shannon made her bets on the same race. She made safer bets (a ‘Show’ bet on a favourite), but lost anyway as the finale was 2, 5, 10.

There were people playing other games of chance. Here’s a daper crew playing Jenga with 2x4s.

Jenga at the Greenwood Stakes 26 may 2018

Greenwood Stakes was filled with influencers who make media on Instagram and Twitter.  Anyone can see their work by typing #GreenwoodStakes into Google or any social media platform. This author hopes for VIP invitations as media influencer next year.

instagram influencers at Greenwood stakes

There were hats of all types, and men with stylish vests or suspenders over white cotton shirts. Lots of suit jacket blazers over matching dress shorts (very chic) and deck shoes worn with no socks.  Almost all the ladies, (except the girl in yellow below – Ashley, personal trainer Liberty Village) wore colourful hats or fascinators in their hair. This author is fascinated by the word, and the very idea, of fascinators.

The hat makers were in heaven.

These two gentlemen are NOT rock stars as we thought, but in fact stylish hat makers; they are clever craftsmen who make authentic old-school felt hats out of beaver fur.

On Saturday, May 26, Greenwood Stakes also showcased some of Toronto’s top nightclub mixologists. Our crew frequented this fruit-filled drink station on the west end of the enclosure.  This young lady’s alcoholic concoctions were ten dollars each and made with anything your could imagine, plus rye, vodka or gin. This bartender had a special preference for tropical flavoured energy drink mixes.

The track-side bar and promenade was tailor made for sharable moments for our Instagram generation.

Event producers Parade Agency and The Social Concierge teamed up with Woodbine presumably to launch Greenwood Stakes, which is modeled on the success of a similar event in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Proceeds from this affair ewent to tickets (starting at $75)  not sure exactly.

This author would like to thank one vendor in particular. At one point I spilled my beer and thank goodness the glass didn’t break .. yeah I felt like a klutz. This vendor ran out and got me another beverage, compliments of the house. It was a great thing to do.

So i bought a pork-on-a-bun from him.

How could this event do better in 2019?  The horses need to be paraded on the grass track (the track on which they are actually running the races) not the distant dirt track, and there needs to be more interaction with the horses and the pubic.  At Woodbine, during these special events, the Paddock is too far away for guests to traverse the distance to see the horses before the race.  Simply put – this event needs more horses! Also, there should be a betting school, and there could be a mini Game Show with its own prizes.  Next, a criticism; the stage seen below was set up facing the track ? why? did the planners think they would perform for the horses and riders? The result was the MC was constantly straining his neck to the extreme left to address the majority of the people, and at the fashion finale, there was limited room for an audience to watch the ‘fashion show’. Also, why were the food vendors booths along the race track occupying the best real estate for guests? The food station should be its own area ; the track-side real estate should be a luxury promenade and benches for seating and standing. Finally, in this author’s humble opinion, there should be one very large commanding screen which shows the races, but also key moments and becomes a sharable moment center by itself. This author found the event very decentralized, and equestrian-estranged.

Greenwood Stakes is a Toronto Area Fashion Event

Fashion reigned supreme at Woodbine that Saturday afternoon, and there was even a fashion contest with two $500 cash prizes for best-dressed male and female guest. The winners are certain to be invited back to crown next year’s champions, and so on and so forth the tradition will continue, its hoped, for another century.

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