Though the Rayside-Balfour racetrack dates back only about thirty years, harness racing has been practiced in the region since 1891. This sport was introduced by the brothers Patrick, Ned and Jack Tyne, originally from Ireland.
At the time, no track was laid out, but challenges were made and races took place on Errington Street in Chelmsford. Others became interested in this sport and trained their horses for trotting. In 1902, it was said that 600 people came from the local towns and villages to attend a horse race. The parish priest, Stéphane Côté, recognized the economic potential of these races and encouraged participation in this enterprise. Abbé Vaillancourt raised Grattan race horses and laid out a half-mile oval track on his land.
In 1910, Father Côté foresaw the possibility of using horse races to finance the construction of a church. For thirty years, races were run during the annual parish picnic for the sole benefit of the church.
Once the church was paid for, Abbé Vaillancourt took over the organization of the annual races. When he sold his land to the war veterans in 1952, the races disappeared for a few years. In 1961, Côme Trottier and his sons laid out a track and races started up again with renewed vigour every week until 1973.
When John McIsaac opened the Sudbury Downs in 1974, the racetrack and modern complex marked the advent of professional harness races. Rayside-Balfour's favourite sport still attracts tourists and residents and has become a vital part of the town's economic life.
Material compiled from Chelmsford 1883-1983.