Day At The Track

On The Rail with Sydney Weaver at the Meadowlands

09:13 AM 31 Dec 2014 NZDT
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Harness Racing Harness Racing Harness Racing Golden Receiver, harness racing
On the Meadowlands rooftop with Andy Miller, Doug McNair, Brett Miller, David Miller and Brian Sears
Feeding Captaintreacherious a carrot with trainer Tony Alagna
Lisa Weaver Photo
Getting to do the Meadowlands show with Bob Heyden and Ken Warkentin
Lisa Weaver Photo
Getting acquainted with Golden Receiver in the Meadowlands paddock
Lisa Weaver Photo
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It was like being on the set of a Hollywood movie, many of harness racing’s biggest stars all in one place. The sights, the sounds were all so fascinating, all more magical than my wildest dreams!

I was in a state of true awe and pure joy, I was actually here for the first time at the Meadowlands Racetrack! It was genuinely thoughtful and kind hearted of the Meadowlands to invite me down for the Fourth of July weekend.

 On the Friday as my parents and I walked through the doors I was speechless, there was so much to see and I did not want to miss a single moment of the action. I was afraid to blink, worried I might miss something, it was as though I was stepping into another world and little did I know I really was.

I could feel an overwhelming sense of true enthusiasm and it felt as though I was exactly where I belonged. Everyone was so genuinely kind to me and made me feel welcome and that is a feeling I will never forgot. A gentlemen name Gary greeted us at the door; from there I met Darin Zoccali who was a big part of making this trip happen. I also met Ken Warkentin and Bob “Hollywood” Heyden on the set of their show and that was an amazing experience.

All I wanted was to see the track, but my mom reminded me of our reservations in Trotters which I was also excited for. As we walked in and took our seats, I was still trying to wrap my head around where I was and the day’s events.

I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of racing’s top horses up close, all of which I had watched race on the computer, and now I had the unforgettable moments of telling them how pretty or handsome they are.

 I got to get up and close and personal with Somwhereovrtherainbow, Shebestingin, Market Share, and Captaintreacherous!   Along with the people who make them the great racehorses that they are were Linda Toscano, Shelly Grieco and Joe Holloway.

While visiting Alagna Racing and Captaintreacherous at Gaitway Farms, Mr. [Tony] Alagna  gave me a gift certificate for Big Dee’s Tack and Vet Supplies so I could get some more pink tack for Pinky! I got to give Captaintreacherous carrots, the only word to describe that experience is unforgettable.  Captaintreacherous is the biggest and most majestic animal I have ever seen, he had this presence of power about him, and that has forever left a lasting impression on me.

After eating some really good food and seeing and chatting to some friends it was time to see the track and watch some races! I was in total disbelief; here I was sitting along the rail of the Meadowlands Racetrack!

I had this feeling of honor just looking at it`, this is where the champions raced both horses and drivers. While I was starring at the track in awe and looking at my program, my mom said to me, “who do like in the 7th race?”

 As I scanned the page looking at the contenders for the 7th race, my mom leaned over and pointed to the top of the page and it read ‘Sydney Weaver’s Big M Debut’. I was in shock, to see that was spectacular and something I was not expecting. Although I knew that tomorrow I would make the presentation for the 2014 Hambletonian Maturity Trot along with members of the Hambletonian Society, which was a true honor for me.

As the races were called to post my heart raced with excitement, I still could not believe that I was at the Meadowlands.  I watched the horses go by one by one, seeing the horses and their drivers’ parade was just ‘wow’ for me. I had dreamt this moment a thousand times but to actually be along the rail was pretty incredible. I am in awe during any race but these ones made me really in awe.  Watching races on the computer of The Meadowlands never prepared me for the picturesque sight of the track and grandstand.  

I lost track of time being in admiration of everything around me, and before I knew it was time for 7th race. I had never presented a trophy before and I felt special being able to present my first one at the Meadowlands! As the horses crossed the wire my dad and I headed to the Winner’s Circle! A gentleman named Paul whom I had met earlier that evening handed me the trophy, subconsciously I was a little nervous but I was too excited to notice the butterflies I was feeling. 

After a very busy and exciting day with too many memories to even count, we headed back to our hotel. I was reviewing the day’s events in my mind, a lot of it seemed like a dream.

 I looked to my mom and said, “Pinch me! I want to make sure I didn’t dream today and everything that happened was real!”

 That night I fell asleep to the replaying of events that had taken place, so much had happened, all of which I did not want to forget.  Tomorrow would be just as busy and filled with even more memories and with that I nodded off to sleep.

That morning I woke with excitement, it was Saturday and my parents and I were going to the baby races and I was super excited because champions like Perfect Alliance were going to qualify and 2-year-olds were prepping to become champions.

When we arrived back at the Meadowlands I was just as wide eyed as the night before, we ate a quick delicious breakfast. It was quick because today was my final day here and I could eat later; besides all the excitement was taking over my appetite.

When we finally reached the rail in the sizzling heat of the July sun, I found the perfect spot and never moved until the baby races and qualifiers were over. I learned was a really bad decision, I got a severe bad sunburn. Now this was a fault of my own; I only got sunburned because I was unwilling to miss a baby race to go inside and apply sunscreen even though my mom insisted, this became known as the ‘baby race burn.’

Back at our hotel, I was all excited for tonight. My mom put Aloe Vera on my sunburn. Even though it did not really bother me because I was counting down the hours until we would back at the track.

The time finally came and as we walked through doors and I got that giddy feeling again. Tonight we were eating in a restaurant called Pink, and it was! The food in pink was delicious and I left feeling full! 

We watched the races and I cheered for my friends, wishing winning trainers, drivers and owners congratulations as they passed me. Even some of my fellow Canadians were racing and I was glad I could be there to watch and cheer them on. 

After watching the races in their entirety my mom, my dad and I headed up to the rooftop to watch the fireworks and see some of my friends. On our way up there we just happen to meet up with Doug McNair, and Jody Jamieson, and that was an unexpected surprise.  

The firework show was simply mesmerizing and I was capturing their beauty with the bright lights of New York City in the background. The best part of it all was I was taking it all in surrounded by my friends and harness racing’s superstars and for me that was a memorable night filled with magic.

That night I walked out of the doors with a heart filled with different emotions. It was a whirlwind of a trip, so much happened and everybody was so genuinely kind to me. The passion everyone had for horse racing down here was refreshing.  But at the same time I was a little sad because I was leaving and I did not know when I would be back.  I had created so many new friendships and so many memories, both will always be a part of who I am.  I was leaving for the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and Museum in the morning; but those adventures are for another day.

A few months later a friend of mine, Mary Christopher, posted on my Facebook ‘Well little Miss Weaver... you best get packed because myself and your mother are taking you to the BREEDERS CROWN!  Have to watch my horse race and thought you would like to go watch Il Sogno Dreams.’

That is when I dropped my head into my hands and began to cry tears of pure happiness.  We were going to leave in only a few days and I could not wait! I only had three days of school left and they felt like the longest three days of school ever, because all I could think about was going back to the Meadowlands and the Breeders Crown!

I got a little nervous a couple days before, Buffalo, New York got a wicked snow storm and this made me worry because I knew we crossed into Buffalo last time.

This meant we would either have to cancel or leave earlier, I hoped it was the latter of the two. My mom and Mary had planned a route that would allow us to avoid the storm. It would take us longer but it would get us there and that is all that mattered.

The night before we would start our journey to the Meadowlands I did not sleep. I was anticipating being back at the Meadowlands, replaying the big moments that I remember like it happened yesterday.

I was listening just in case in the wee hours of the morning when my mom knocked on my bedroom door and told me to get ready because we were going to start driving. When my mom came in it was not too early, I had all the energy as if it were Christmas morning. The drive took about 10 hours, that night we relaxed in our hotel room. The next morning we went shopping! I got a new outfit to wear that night for dinner in pink! By the time we returned to the hotel it was time to get ready to go the Meadowlands!

Walking through the doors of the Meadowlands again made me feel full of bliss, seeing my friends that I had not seen since July was wonderful, and I also met new ones.  Once again Gary greeted us at the door, and I asked him if Jason Settlemoir was available. He told me he was, and took us up to his office. I felt very special to be up in the office with, Jason and Mr. Jeff Gural.

That night we three girls ate in Pink, and once again the food was excellent. After eating we went down to the rail and I found my spot, I was so happy to be back! The only way to describe how I was feeling was like returning home after a long time away! The races were still as heart stopping as they were in July.  I was here to witness the finals of the Breeders Crown and as they say, ‘It all comes down to Breeders Crown’ and here I was a part of the action! 

The next day we went to the qualifiers, it made my heart skip a beat as we walked through the entrance of the paddock as I felt honored to be in the backstretch of the Meadowlands, as it was another memory that was wow for me!

I got to meet the regal Golden Receiver, and the elegant Sebastian K who were both qualifying that day.  That night the races continued to be magnificent as usual, my friend who was kind enough to invite us down, had her horse, Il Songo Dreams  racing in the three-year-old colts and geldings division.

As he stepped out on the track, all three of us became nervous and excited, all the way around we were hollering the loudest and jumping up and down. He raced tough and tried his hardest but finished seventh. All three of us were happy and proud of him, it did not matter where he finished, what matter was we had a great weekend.

The Meadowlands is a special place to me, where my heart never beats normal, because it had either stopped because something unbelievable had happened or because I was so excited for something and it was beating out of my chest. 

There will always be a lot of things that I will remember about the Meadowlands, but one thing that left a lasting impression was the enthusiasm the fans had for horse racing and how kind the people were to me and everyone made me feel special and that is something I will always hold  near and dear to my heart.

I have so many wonderful memories, but not all of them made it into this story, and that does not mean they are any less important because I will always cherish all of them. Thank you to Darin, Jason and Mr. Gural for inviting for me down and for making the Meadowlands the wonderful place it is.

Sydney Weaver is 14 years old and resides in Acton, Ontario, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, grooms horses, jogs them on the track, owns a racehorse and has already won major youth writing awards. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy, but has never let her disability hold her back from achieving her goals.

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