The harness racing stakes calendar at The Meadowlands will have a distinctly different look for 2013 with the focus shifting from two year olds stakes to events geared for the older horse set.
Gone are the Woodrow Wilson and Sweetheart. The Reynolds and Simpson freshman stakes have been relocated to sister tracks Tioga & Vernon Downs and scheduled later in the season. The Final Four (Governor's Cup, Three Diamonds,y and Goldsmith Maid) will be resurrected and added to The Meadowlands 2013 Fall meet around Thanksgiving, placing the emphasis on high dollar races for two year olds being offered from late August through November.
The really big news is a brand new Free For All series, conceived by Jeff Gural. The series will include the top older events at The Meadowlands, Breeders Crown finals and Allerage Farm finals along with several $50,000 Opens at The Meadowlands as legs from which points will be accumulated leading into the $500,000 guaranteed final for both trotters and pacers on November 30.
A provision in the conditions to invite the winner of the 3 year old Breeders Crown or Hambletonian/Meadowlands Pace offers the hope that this year-end event may pit the top three year old against the best older horses as the Breeders Cup Classic does for the thoroughbreds, giving this new race serious Horse of the Year implications.
The Meadowlands Maturity for four year old pacers and trotters will debut in May with an estimated $100,000 purse ($75,000 added) offered just for the cost of the declaration fee.
Another new series for 2013 is the Hudson River for 4 & 5 year old NJ, NY or PA sires stakes participants that have not won 4PM races or $150,000 outside of the state-bred events. This one will travel, with $18,000 legs planned for PA and NY as well as The Meadowlands before the $75,000e final at The Meadowlands.
New Meadowlands President, Jeff Gural offered his observations on the revamped stakes program, "I believe that unlike in the past, our best 3 year olds are likely to race at 4 and as a result I believe the races for older horses will once again have the kind of excitement that I grew up with when I started going to Yonkers and Roosevelt over 50 years ago. I am looking forward to the upcoming season and hopefully we can give our customers a chance to see the best older horses at the Meadowlands more than once or twice as they try to accumulate points in order to race in these year end races. Hopefully we can have a top 3 year old enter to add to the mix".
Also returning to The Big M in 2013 are the Moni Maker and Nadia Lobell, which are scheduled for the Fall Meet in late November.
Live racing returns to The Meadowlands on December 28 with a new post time of 7:15PM. The schedule calls for racing Thursday, Friday and Saturday through March 16, then Friday and Saturday for the balance of the year. The 2013 Championship Meet begins on Friday, May 3 and will end with the Hambletonian Day card.
Full details on the stakes are upcoming and all information will be available at The Meadowlands website.
by Nick SALVI