The feature race on the Friday harness racing program at The Meadowlands was the 11th race, B1/A2 Handicap Trot. Scratched down to a select field of the six, the field was led by a pair of classy trotters in Not Afraid and Opening Night.
It was Bambino Glide however who made it clear from the start that he was intent on the lead, seating Not Afraid in the pocket through a 26.3 opening quarter. While this was occurring, Opening Night found himself well off the lead, trailing the field. Driverwas forced to pull Opening Night to the outside just three-eighths of a mile into the race as slowed things down on the lead to the tune of a 55.2 half-mile before hitting three quarters in 1:24.3. While Bambino Glide was coasting along on the lead, Opening Night was forced to commit to a long, steady grind where he would find himself on even terms with the leader turning for home.
Meanwhile, Not Afraid, who was allowed to draft behind the pacesetter, was lurking in the weeds behind the two leaders.
The Friday card also featured the beginning of two series, The Cathedra Dot Com and The Flower Child. The Cathedra Dot Com named for one of the finest race-mares and broodmares of all time and Flower Child who was one of the top Free For All trotters many years ago. Both series were contested by horses with six or more starts at Freehold Raceway, or horses classified at the C-2 level.
The first division of the Cathedra Dot Com appeared to be a layover on paper, but it took a photo finish to decide the result between 3-5 favorite Mojarra Hanover and 3-1 second choice The Summer Wind. Mojarra Hanover went right to the lead, establishing a 27.1, 54.2 and 1:22.4 tempo, while never facing a challenge. That changed in the middle of the stretch as The Summer Wind, who saved ground throughout, wheeled out in the stretch and set her sights on Mojarra Hanover nearing the wire. The narrowest of margins separated the two mares at the finish and the win photograph revealed it was the nose of Mojarra Hanover on the wire. The 1:51.1 clocking equaled the winner's lifetime mark which she established just one week ago. It was five lengths back to Fancy Pants Sandy in third. That made back to back wins for the Chris Scicluna trained mare for lessee who was also in the sulky for the victory.
The second Cathedra Dot Com division was a more wide open affair and the result supported that notion. In a surprise, it was 10-1 Kz Beach Girl, who traditionally races from well off the pace showing the most early speed, clearing the lead to the opening quarter in 27.1. Driver then rationed out his mare's speed with a 28.2 second panel, before hitting three-quarters in 1:23.2. Throughout the race, Kz Beach Girl never faced an outside challenge and separated herself from pocket sitting Mistresstothestars in the stretch to win by three convincing lengths. Trevor's Bebe checked in third. The winner was trained by Michael Forte for owner Ricky Bucci.
The third and final Cathedra Dot Com split closed out the Friday program with a field of nine. It appeared that the road to the winner's circle would have to go through Carolsideal who was sent off as the 3/5 favorite for trainer/driver . His mare was pressing the lead through an opening quarter of 27.1, before being forced to yield to the pocket behind a backstretch-brushing Ideal A Little and , who got to the half-mile pole in 55.1 and three quarters in 1:23.4. Carolsideal was the only mare with a shot at the leader turning for home and she pulled the pocket in the stretch but could only make mild progress as Ideal A Little kept the favorite at bay, winning in 1:52.1 at 5-1. The win was the third on the card for for trainer Sam De Pinto and owners White Birch Farm and Shannon De Pinto.
The Flower Child got underway in the ninth race in a very contentious event. Captain Primeau was sent off as the 7/5 favorite, but interestingly , who had his choice between Captain Primeau and 39-1 Vallas Cowgirl opted to the latter. Neither would be victorious though as Helios, who appeared very rough on the far turn, was kept trotting impressively by to score. The winner was shown racetrack in the stretch where the gelding rallied past pace-setting Americash Express, who had established splits of 28.1, 56.2 and 1:25.2 and held off Dash For The Cash down to the wire who rallied to be 2nd. J Cs Jake rallied from well back to be third. Helios returned $6.20 to win as the 2-1 second choice. Helios is trained by for Little E L.L.C. and Manzo/Scalia Racing.
The second division of the Flower Child was another competitive field, with Sina reigning as the 5/2 slight favorite at post time and she did not disappoint as put his mare in perfect position. Sina was allowed to settle off the pace, which was set by Perfect Picture originally through a quarter in 27.2, before Mr Ridgetaker cleared the lead while parking out Upfrontstrikesgold through a half-mile of 55 flat. Mr Ridgetaker then got another challenge from Perfect Picture which allowed to place Sina in perfect striking position second over behind the speed at three-quarters in 1:24.2. When Perfect Picture began to tire, launched Sina three-wide where she rolled past the leaders and then held off the late charge from Lad Pine at the wire. The winner is trained by Robert Bencal for Moon Goddess LLC.
The third division of the Flower Child kicked off the late daily double with the betting public deciding on McKenzie's Star as their 6/5 betting choice. The mare was looking for her second win in three days, as she scored a neck victory at Harrah's Philadelphia on Wednesday. The early lead belonged to Hasty Proffitt who established fractions of 27.2, 57 and 1:26.4. Arriba Amigo was forced first over until a space opened up to slide into the pocket behind the leader. The problem was McKenzie's Star was drafting behind his cover and when Arriba Amigo moved to the pylons, McKenzie's star accelerated past Arriba Amigo and Hasty Proffitt to draw away convincingly in the stretch, tripping the timer in 1:55.4. McKenzie's Star was driven to victory by Dave Miller for trainer and owners Four Js Stable.
Despite a forty-five minute delay, the on-track handle for the Friday program showed gains of 27-percent on a beautiful night in East Rutherford, New Jersey, while total handle was up nearly 10-percent. After the races, the party continued on Victory Terrace which is proving to be one of North Jersey's most popular hot-spots.
Breakfast with the Babies kicks off Belmont Stakes Saturday at The Meadowlands at 9:30 A.M. in Trotters where breakfast is free to members and $7.95 for non-members. General Admission begins at 10:30 A.M. with The Belmont card getting underway at 11:35. At 11:30 A.M. the Victory Sports Bar Belmont Buffet begins. Victory Terrace and The Backyard both open at noon. Saturday night features Seafood Fest which commences at 5:00 P.M., which includes a Peel & Eat Shrimp Contest. All these activities lead up to The Belmont Stakes post time at 6:52 P.M. for California Chrome's quest for the Triple Crown. Shortly after the running of The Belmont, The Meadowlands 13-race program begins at 7:15 P.M. In addition to live racing, the Gilbert Gottfried comedy show in the gallery begins at 8:00 P.M. For more information log onto playmeadowlands.com