Day At The Track

New stakes conditions for sport's major event

03:25 PM 11 Aug 2011 NZST
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In an effort to keep the sport's stars racing longer, the Meadowlands Racetrack, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs will change their harness racing stakes conditions to make horses sired by 4-year-old stallions ineligible to participate.

Beginning with the foals of 2013, nomination to stakes and early closing events at the three tracks will require that the sire of any nominee be a minimum of five years of age at the time the nominee is bred. (The Hambletonian and all sire stakes-funded races are excluded). Stallions meeting certain criteria, such as a career-ending injury, may be granted a waiver regarding the clause. Waiver conditions will be made available on the Meadowlands web site.

The format is being implemented as a pilot program and will be evaluated after a few years to judge its effectiveness in keeping the sport's top horses on the racetrack and sparking fans' interest in its champions. Other stakes sponsors have been asked to join the initiative, and efforts will be made to work with other tracks to create early season events for four-year-old horses so they will not have to start their campaigns racing against the best older horses.

For the 2012 racing season, there also will be a reassignment of several Grand Circuit stakes. The entire slate of two and three-year-old races for both the W. N. Reynolds Memorial and the John F. Simpson Memorial will move to the Meadowlands summer meet.

The Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial three-year-old open and filly trots will move to Vernon Downs in 2012. The Zweig will be raced in an entirely new format, much like the Colonial Trot. The added money has been increased three-fold to $150,000 and the estimated purse for both races is $700,000. The top nine money-winning horses will compete in the main event, with consolations offered.

The first leg of harness racing's Triple Crown, the Cane Pace, and its filly companion race, the Shady Daisy, has already moved to Tioga Downs for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Amy SILVER

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