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Mark MacDonald, winner of over 5,000 races will be driving at The Meadowlands on Friday nights through the end of The Championship Meet. MacDonald is hoping this will be a launching point to him becoming a Meadowlands mainstay going forward. "I want to start driving there on Friday nights. It's tough to jump into any place in the middle of a meet, let alone The Meadowlands, but I want to start with Friday's and I think when The Meadowlands opens up again in the fall I will go there full time." The Meadowlands recently announced a purse increase, but that was not the driving force behind MacDonald's decision. "The Meadowlands will give me more exposure compared to what I am doing now. In addition the better stakes horses, especially the younger ones come through The Meadowlands. I don't want to just drive overnight horses all year. I look forward to getting some drives in big stakes races and in order to do that, I need to drive at The Meadowlands." MacDonald is committed to driving as many horses as he can going forward. "I'll be at qualifiers driving all the horses that I can. Hopefully I will pick up more and more work as the meet goes on." So far MacDonald is off to a good start as he is 1 for 1 with the mare he co-owns, Up Front Elizabeth. General Manager Jason Settlemoir is thrilled about MacDonald's addition to the driving colony. "I am very pleased to have Mark driving with us going forward, not only for his on the track ability but because he understands this business and conducts himself in a professional manner off the track. He is a great addition to a driving colony that is filled with youth, energy and talent." by Darin Zoccali, for the Meadowlands

Perfect Alliance completed her sweep of the Charles Singer Memorial with dominant 1:52.2 stakes record performance in the $53,200 final for Andy Miller. Sent away as the overwhelming 1/5 betting choice, Perfect Alliance followed Time To Quit around the first turn before brushing to the top before the 55- half. Ray Hall ranged up first over for Tetrick and pressed the leader toward the 1:24- three quarters before Perfect Alliance kicked it into another gear and drew out to an open length win under minimal urging in the record mile. Longshot Little Bitty Lies rallied late for Marcus Miller to take the place and Time To Quit stuck around for third. The winner is trained by Julie Miller for owners Meadowlands Racing Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gural (racing under Little E, LLC), General Manager & CEO Jason Settlemoir, Dave Stolz and Art Geiger. Julie Miller was beaming with pride in the winners circle. "She was unbelievable tonight," said Miller. "I couldn't be more excited. She had a great week, was training great all week and she raced great tonight." Miller confirmed the Bobby Weiss will be next on her mare's agenda. National Debt continued the parade of unbeaten prospects when he captured the $60,500 Buddy Gilmour pacing series final in Saturday's eleventh race. Driver Tim Tetrick protected the eventual winner's position from the rail, allowing second choice Capital Account a short lead before retaking before the 55.2 half. The winner faced token pressure through the 27.4 third panel with Gingras waiting in the pocket with Capital Account for the homestretch to unleash his colt from the pocket. National Debt had the answer when asked by Tetrick, sprinting home in 27.2 for the 1:50.3 win. Capital Account was a well meant second and Dinner At The Met third. Tetrick was pleased with his colt once again. "A 1:50 mile in March is pretty big," said Tetrick. "He got a little lazy on the lead and he has some things to learn, but the talent is there. Now we just have to see if he can pace in 1:47." National Debt is now six for six in his career and doubled his lifetime earnings with the Gilmour win for owners Kelly Hoerdt, Ema & Blair Corbell and their new partner J & T Silva Stables. Ron Coyne, Jr has been deputized by Hoerdt to tend to his prize pupil while stateside and his work thus far has been impeccable. Total handle for the Saturday program was $3,426,720, which included slight on-track gains. Racing returns Thursday, with a 10-race program and post time at 7:15 P.M. Darin Zoccali    

East Rutherford, NJ - After overseeing the $90 million dollar construction project of the New Meadowlands and a meteoric handle increase, Meadowlands CEO/General Manager, Jason M. Settlemoir has been invited to serve as the keynote speaker at a Swedish Trotting Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden on Monday, March 10th. The Swedish Trotting Association (STA) has enlisted Settlemoir to inspire its membership to follow the lead of the Meadowlands, which has successfully transformed into a first-class, modern racing facility in the face of unprecedented competition from both racetracks and other forms of gambling. "The New Meadowlands is a model for the modern racetrack complete with top-notch customer service, advanced technology, and the premier brand of harness racing in the world. I am honored to be making this trip to share our success story and strengthening our relationship with members of the Swedish harness racing community," said Jason M. Settlemoir, CEO/GM of Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. Settlemoir's presentation will focus on the construction of the new grandstand, customer service, technology, integrity, social media, promotions, and event marketing. by Rachel Ryan, for the Meadowlands

East Rutherford, NJ -- The first round of payments are in for the major Grand Circuit stakes to be raced in 2014 at The Meadowlands and the big news is the dramatic increase in the number of horses nominated to the $750,000e Meadowlands Pace. A total of 58 three year old colt pacers were named to the race, nearly double the 2013 figure of 30, and boast the most accomplished freshmen from last season and a few upstarts among the nominees.   The eligibles include the recently named 2013 Dan Patch Award winning two year old colt pacer He's Watching, Breeders Crown winner Luck Be With You, Metro hero Boomboom Ballykeel and Governor's Cup champ JK Endofanera. Both colts that won divisions of the Buddy Gilmour series so impressively on Saturday, Capital Account and National Debt, have been paid in as well.   Several tweaks in the payment formula resulted in greater participation by nominators. The most noticeable change was the reduction in the nomination fee from $1,000 to $500. Another is the inclusion of a tiered entry fee replacing a flat fee of $6,000 to enter the elimination round to $2,500 to start in the elimination race and then $5,000 to continue on into the final.   Other changes are being implemented going forward which include for the first time a two year old payment of $400 due March 15 on foals of 2012 which will result in a reduction of $2,000 in the sustaining payments for the 2015 Pace. The goal is to maintain and eventually increase the purse of the race while at the same time reducing the burden on the nominators   By mere association the Mistletoe Shalee filly companion stake leaped nearly 40%from 29 to 41.   Meadowlands General Manager and CEO Jason Settlemoir voiced his approval, "It's gratifying to see our signature race experience such a resurrection. It took some thought by the racing department Pete Koch, Darin Zoccali and Nick Salvi to revise a payment plan that was no longer working. The improvement is welcome and appreciated.   "With better weather ahead and the stakes season on the horizon, there is certainly cause for optimism. Saturday past the place felt alive, the crowd was not only large but also engaged. There was definitely the type of buzz in the building that we are expecting for the new grandstand."   Across the board on the stakes menu results were mixed. Substantial increases were realized in the Peter Haughton Memorial and Merrie Annabelle, a few more trotters were nominated to the Cashman Memorial and the TVG Trotting Championship. Those names include two noteworthy mares, Horse of the Year Bee A Magician and world record holder Maven. The older pacing mare stakes were up a bit as well.   The Del Miller for sophomore filly trotters took the biggest hit, down a third and several of the stakes for open older pacers also declined appreciably while the quality of the nominees held up nicely.   Nominations for all the races are now posted on The Meadowlands website. Keep in mind that these lists are subject to omission/correction.http://www.meadowlandsracetrack.com/StakesNominations.aspx From the Meadowlands Media Relations Dept.

The first $15,000 leg of the Charles Singer Memorial was raced in two divisions on a Thursday night card at The Meadowlands and the favorites did not disappoint. Perfect Alliance came into the Singer off a pair of impressive efforts for the Andy and Julie Miller barn. She continued to excel on this evening, romping to a seven plus length win in a career best equaling 1:53.3 for Andy Ray. The win marked the 8,000th in the driving career of Andy Miller. Biding her time through fractions of 27.1 and 56.2, Perfect Alliance was launched by Miller into the far turn and she stormed right past Cajole Hanover and quickly opened up a three-length lead. That margin continued to grow, despite Andy Miller not asking his mare for any more effort in the stretch. She was an impressive, wrapped up winner and appears as the clear favorite in the Charles Singer Memorial. The Credit Winner mare was stakes placed several times in a useful 2013 season but has blossomed into an imposing presence at age four for Jeff Gural's Little E, LLC, Meadowlands GM Jason Settlemoir, Dave Stolz and Artie Geiger. Not to be out-done was Time To Quit, who is looking to parlay his successful sweep of the Super Bowl series into a successful run at the Charles Singer Memorial. Tonight, Time To Quit extended his win streak to five in a workman-like effort in 1:56.2. Coasting along on the lead virtually throughout for Yannick Gingras, Time To Quit was challenged late by pocket-sitter Clementine Dream but was able to close out the mile by a diminishing head over that foe at the wire. Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi and Phil Collura share ownership of Time To Quit, who has returned over $50,000 on their investment in just two months. The Charles Singer Memorial continues with the second leg next Thursday, February 27th, with the $52,500 Final taking place Saturday March 8th. by Darin Zoccali, for the Meadowlands    

Perfect Alliance and driver Andy Miller have formed a perfect partnership so far this year. A 4-year-old female trotter, Perfect Alliance is 2-for-2 this season as she heads into Thursday's scheduled first leg of the Charles Singer Memorial Series at the Meadowlands. She is the 7-5 favorite in the second of two opening-round divisions. Time To Quit, who won the Super Bowl Series and is unbeaten in three races this year, is the 4-5 choice in the first division. Last year, Perfect Alliance won one of 14 starts and earned $66,967. She had nine different drivers during the campaign and never had the same driver in consecutive races. She was trained by Robert Bencal last year, but moved into the stable of Julie Miller this season. "I think having Andy to drive her has been an asset," Julie Miller said about her husband. "I talked to Bob Bencal and he said she was getting a little hot behind the gate (last year). I think she really likes having one driver all the time rather than getting catch drivers who maybe don't know her as well." Perfect Alliance comes into the Singer off a win from post 10 at the Meadowlands on Feb. 7. She raced on the outside the entire mile, but finished with a :28.1 final quarter-mile en route to a three-quarter-length victory in 1:54. She won her first start of the year, also at the Big M, by 7-1/2 lengths in 1:53.3. "Her first two starts were pretty impressive," Miller said. "Her last start at the Meadowlands out of the 10 hole, she got pretty roughed up and then got a flat tire and still was able to go on. I was really impressed with her effort. She's really rounding into form and I expect good things from her." Perfect Alliance is a daughter of stallion Credit Winner out of the mare Yalta Hanover and was purchased for $75,000 under the name Perfect Deo at the 2011 Lexington Selected Sale. Her mother is a half-sister to stakes-winners Yursa Hanover, He's Spooky and Scary Good. She is a three-quarter sister to Thistle Dhu, who ironically edged Perfect Alliance by a nose in the $40,000 Zweig Memorial Consolation for 3-year-old filly trotters. Another of Yalta Hanover's half-sisters, Yassi Hanover, is the mother of Jurgen Hanover, who won last year's Empire Breeders Classic for 3-year-old male trotters. "She's got everything going for her; a great pedigree line, great conformation and a great attitude," Miller said. "There's not much more you could ask for with a trotter. "What I'm really impressed with are her manners. She's easy on herself. She's a huge mare and she's got a great gait to her. She does it with ease, and that's what you want. Not to exert a lot of energy but get great results. I'm just really happy with her." Perfect Alliance is owned by New Meadowlands Racing Chairman Jeff Gural, Meadowlands General Manager Jason Settlemoir, David Stolz and Arthur Geiger. "Luckily we got her and she's just done everything we've asked of her," Miller said. "We're going to stake her to a few things for the mares, but that will probably be about it. I think the TVG Series and trying to race against the boys is just a little bit too much for her, as of right now. But we're really high on her this year." by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications    

East Rutherford, NJ - On Saturday night, The Meadowlands wrapped up its 2013 racing calendar with another $3 Million night. Something that was achieved only four times in 2012, including Meadowlands Pace and Hambletonian Day, the $3 Million night has become almost expected on Saturday nights and is an example of the success The Big M had in 2013. Total handle wagered on the Meadowlands racing product increased from $171,920,157 in 2012 to $226,822,574 in 2013. That is an increase of nearly $55 Million or 32-percent. While live handle was virtually flat, $24,595,767 in 2013 compared to $24,653,746 in 2012, the Meadowlands raced two less days in 2013 due to weather cancellations. The live handle per card of $307,447 in 2013 was a slight increase from the $300,655 in 2012. "To see these kind of numbers in this day and age borders on the remarkable," said General Manager Jason Settlemoir. "A racetrack showing a 32-percent increase in handle without the addition of expanded gaming, or some other factor is something we can look back on with pride. While we certainly received a shot in the arm by moving into a new facility in November, the majority of our racing days were in our old grandstand. These results are truly a testament to the hard work and dedication of our entire team. The customer service provided by this team is second to none and I have no doubts that it played a role in producing these results." "These results show that when you listen to your customers and make proactive changes, great things are possible," said Director of Racing Operations Darin Zoccali. We gave the bettors a second pick 4 to wager on, moved post time back slightly to give customers a bit longer to make it to the races, improved our export signal and also gave our customers an integrity driven product to wager on. This past year was a lot of fun and is something we can all be proud of, but now the bar has been raised and we have expectations that we intend to surpass again in 2014. The brand new Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment will go a long way in helping us accomplish our goals." The Meadowlands wasn't alone in it's success. Winners Bayonne, the off-track wagering facility owned and operated by Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment yielded substantial increases as well. Based on a 5-month sample in 2012, Winners Bayonne projected to do approximately $35 Million in handle in a full calendar year. But in 2013, Winners Bayonne surpassed $50 Million in handle, 42-percent more than the 2012 one-year projections. "We had a very good year at Winners," said Zoccali, who also oversees that property as part of his responsibilities, "but we aren't close to done yet. We have a great Director at Winners in Michelle Byrd, complemented by a great management staff that take a very proactive approach in implementing their ideas in how they feel we, as a team, can make Winners even more successful. Operating a simulcast facility is a tricky thing, because when it comes to the product offered, you are dependent upon other tracks that are racing. Each year, the total number of race days across the country is less. So, to show these kinds of gains in this market, is remarkable. It is a testament to customer service, ingenuity and hard work of the entire team at Winners. We look forward to another great year at Winners Bayonne." The all new Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment has been widely praised for it's beauty and ambiance. Things will only get better in the spring, as the Meadowlands opens the expansion of it's track apron, knows as The Backyard, which will include many new amenities, dining and entertainment that the old paddock park did not have. In addition, the rooftop, known as Victory Terrace, will be opened in April and will certainly be a highly sought after location to not only watch the races, but to enjoy a night out at an outdoor lounge with breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline. Details and information on the grand opening of both locations will be made public in the coming months. Customers can log onto playmeadowlands.com for previews. Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural spoke about how Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment is built with a vision to drive an entire industry in a new direction. "This facility is so much more than a racetrack," said Gural. "People know what a racetrack is, they know what every racetrack offers. But this is not just a racetrack. This facility was built with the intention of providing something for everyone, including those individuals who never stepped foot in a racetrack before. Pink, Victory Sports Bar and Victory Terrace are meant to attract younger people to our facility, and expose them to our racing product, with the hope the entire package provides a night's worth of entertainment that will have them wanting to come back. Fine dining, entertainment, gambling and late night drinks and dancing would typically require a person, or a couple to go to three or four different locations. At Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, it is all rolled into one." The Meadowlands also built a state of the art, elegant owners club, named Trotters, that also has a specific purpose. "At the vast majority of racetracks, a room like Trotters simply doesn't exist," said Gural. "It is a gorgeous room that provides elegant dining, luxury, marvelous ambiance and a great view of the racetrack. The hope is that a person who owns horses, will take advantage of this unique location to come and watch his or her horses race, with family and friends, rather than watch at home, because Trotters, much like Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment isn't just racing, it's an experience." by Rachel Ryan for the Meadowlands          

Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment is pleased to provide its customers with a betting option that was provided in the past, but had been discontinued for the past several years. The Meadowlands is bringing back the quick-pick wager which will allow bettors to place wagers on horses that are chosen at random by the totalizator system. This wager has much appeal to newcomers who are just learning how to wager and also provides fun options for seasoned players when they have money left over, but not much time to handicap or wager. "This wager is designed to make new bettors more comfortable," said General Manager Jason Settlemoir. "Handicapping a horse race can be a very intimidating thing and we are pleased to offer this option to make things a bit easier. It also provides some fun options for regular players that have some money left over that they wish to bet. I want to thank the New Jersey Racing Commission for approving our request to bring this wager back to our properties, as well as Sportech for working with us in implementing the technology to bring back this wager." The quick-pick bet will also be offered at Winners Bayonne, the Meadowlands state of the art off-track wagering facility. The wager will be available beginning Thursday, December 5th. by Rachel Ryan for the Meadowlands  

E. Rutherford, NJ ­-- Perhaps the most anticipated night of racing over the entire year, the TVG FFA Finals and the Fall Final Four at the new Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, was just as exciting as the hype that lead up to the historic events. And, it was the fans of harness racing, a sometimes forgotten lot, who were the ultimate winners. While social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have taken the world by storm, harness racing enthusiasts were also quick to feed the digital platforms with comments and photos of their favorite equine heroes, as well as to champion the merits between Foiled Again and Captaintreacherous in the half million dollar pace for the ages.   The crowd favorite, but second betting choice, Foiled Again wowed his rail bird supporters with a pre-race final score. Yannick Gingras blasted the 9-year-old by the stands in what appeared to be a 6 second, sixteenth of a mile, leaving the throngs of spectators buzzing with expectation and snapping pictures with their iPhones. Moments later, TV analyst Ken Warkentin aptly prepared the crowd, "Strap in and hold on!"   When the dust settled from the 1:49.2 mile, a scant couple of lengths separated the new "Six Million Dollar Man," Foiled Again, from his 3-year-old challenger Captaintreacherous and several other rivals. Evident in slow motion on the massive infield tote board, Golden Receiver looked as if he got a head in front of Foiled Again, only to be thwarted at the wire. The crowd roared again as the replay reminded fans of how close the race really was.   The Burke Brigade, led by trainer Ron Burke, posed for congratulatory photos holding up six fingers, honoring the sport's favorite seasoned warrior and his new plateau. Breaking records seem almost commonplace for this high-powered stable that just broke $20 million and 1,000 wins for the season. "Foiled leads us." Burke noted. "We go as he goes. When you have him as the starter for the barn, you are going to have a great year. I can't ask for more than for what he has done."   The winner of the companion race, the TVG Trot was equally impressive in his victory. Market Share, "the little horse that could," won when he was on harness racing's biggest stage. Facing the challenge of the outer most post (7) in a tough field of older millionaire trotters, Tim Tetrick rushed the horse out of the gate to take the top in a :26.2 opening panel, cruising home in 1:51.   The win put Market Share over a million dollars on the season, and also presented more questions than it did answers. Peppered with questions about the horse's future, trainer Linda Toscano was optimistic. "If he comes back as good as he finished up, or better, then we are certainly going to give it a shot. They have invited us [to the Elitloppet] and it would be one of those 'once in a lifetime' kind of things that would be difficult to pass up if the horse is good."   Market Share's hard-working caretaker, Shelly Grieco quickly posted her feelings directly to her Facebook status. "Wow! There aren't any words left to describe just how proud I am of Market Share! Little man... You showed your true grit tonight with that win! Another million $ season to boot!"   Fans and industry leaders alike are have also been quick to recognize the impact that social media has on our sport, and the possibilities and potential for the future.   Rob Key, CEO of Converseon, an award winning social media agency, has been on the forefront of engaging harness racing fans through digital platforms. "I am very optimistic for 2014. We have two things that have never happened in harness racing before. We have a new showcase for harness racing to repackage the sport and the experience of the sport. Number two, we will have an innovative marketing program with the components that will be a platform for the entire sport."   Meadowlands media mogul, Justin Horowitz agrees, "We have a beautiful new building that we can use to showcase the best racing the sport has to offer. We have a lot of people in place that are super passionate about the game. We have a lot of young people that have fresh ideas, a great work ethic, and the desire to utilize social media. And we have an owner [Jeff Gural] and general manager [Jason Settlemoir] who give us the freedom to explore new ideas. Hopefully we can find the right formula and put harness racing back on the map."   If Saturday night's racing card was any indication, harness racing is alive and well and here to stay in East Rutherford, New Jersey!   Check out Harnesslink.com on Facebook and Twitter (@Harnesslink)   by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com    

East Rutherford, NJ – Harness fans, eager to check out the new Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment complex, stormed into the facility Saturday night (Nov. 23) by the thousands.  Shortly after the opening ceremonies, a series of snow squalls also stormed into the East Rutherford Sports Complex.    Despite the high winds, the spirit of the estimated 15,000 fans would never be diminished as the new facility was as exciting as the racing product.  Five of the thirteen races were determined by winning margins of less than a length and ten were won by 2 lengths or less.  Possibly the most exciting was the neck victory by Foiled Again over Warrawee Needy in the final leg of the TVG FFA in 1:49.3.   Interestingly, just three hours before his race, Foiled Again joined Gallo Blue Chip for a ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony by the two richest pacers of all time.  With combined earnings over $10 million dollars, the two harness heroes posed for throngs of photographers in the new “Blue Chip Farms Winners Circle.”   Previous to the ribbon cutting, Miss Rodeo New Jersey delivered a poignant national anthem, followed by opening remarks by Sam McKee, Chairman Jeff Gural, SBOA/NJ President Tom Luchento, and CEO Jason Settlemoir.  Fans were reminded that three years ago the SBOA/NJ and Gural met with the NJ Governor’s administration and helped rescue the Meadowlands Racetrack from governmental extinction.   “Three years later, we are here in a magnificent new building, at the premier track in North America, looking forward to showcasing the best harness racing presented anywhere in the world,” Luchento said.   Patrons on the apron for the race two-TVG trot found themselves in a mini white-out due to a rapid burst of wind and snow.  Some of the best trotters in the world went behind the gate, where five out of the six starters were Hambletonian finalists.  Wishing Stone was victorious, and paid his supporters handsomely at odds of 9-1.   One big fan of racing, USTA Executive Director Mike Tanner found himself caught in the whirlwind.  He proclaimed, “This place is great,” as he tweeted ‘Not Pompano’ in response to the sudden blast of arctic air.   Fans and horsepeople alike were ecstatic about the new building.  Janet Terhune, director of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, exclaimed, “The New Meadowlands is absolutely fantastic.  Trotters (Owners club) is a great experience—it is very ‘clubby.’  The whole facility is filled with people and everybody loves racing.”   Enjoying the atmosphere in Trotters was the breeder of Deweycheatumnhowe, Steve Jones.  Clearly enjoying his well appointed surroundings, “Jonesy” stated, “The facility is fantastic.  Gural and his partners have done a great job.  There is a lot of enthusiasm here.  I like the night club, and all the gambling areas, the bars and everything!  I really think this is going to be a great place to be.”   Hall of Famer Jimmy Doherty, who is one of the few drivers to win a race every year that the Meadowlands has been open, noted that, “I think it is tremendous.  Everyone is very excited about the future.  This place was built for a new generation.”    Ray Remmen, who won the first race on the 1976 opening night with Quick Baron, presented the trophy to the first race winner Alexie Matosie and David Miller.  Another guy who was active on the original opening night on Sept. 1, 1976 was Ted Wing.  He was back as the trainer of a horse in the new opening’s twelfth race.   When reminiscing about historical races, one need not venture any further than the statistician to the stars, Bob “Hollywood” Heyden.  From his TV studio he reminded fans that on the ’76 opener, eight Hall of Famers drove on the card—and only ONE found the winners circle:  Robert Farrington with Rambling Willie.   When quizzed about his observations of this opening night Holly opined that, “Three things stand out.  An unmistakable buzz in the building.  A steady stream of patrons entering from 4 pm through 9 pm, reminiscent of Niatross winning the Meadowlands Pace or a heavy-weight title fight.  And, the sense of anticipation for the overall future of the facility.”   As fans poured into the main entrance, they were eager to enter the Million Dollar Pick 13 challenge.  Many a punter stopped to ogle over the suitcase full of cash, prominently on display in the center of the ground floor betting area.  Alas, the promotion turned elusive as the new racing configuration created a new and distinct track bias.   Perhaps it was a night for underdogs, as only four betting favorites found the winners circle.  Ironically, horses named after 1976 movie icon, Rocky, had a big night: Salevster Stallion (Race 1, fin. 2nd), Stallone Blue Chip (R3,1st) & Yo Cheyenne Rocky (R9, 1st).  Nonetheless, Team Gural showed the world that they were up for the task! by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com  

Jeff Gural, the man credited with saving the Meadowlands, is poised to ring the opening bell on a new era of racing at his premier harness racing facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The owner of three harness tracks and two casinos has accomplished great things in a relatively short period of time.    Tonight, the eyes on an entire industry will be fixed upon the new Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment complex.   By all accounts, the facility will not disappoint.  At over 180,000 square feet, which is large by “new” industry standards, the new grandstand is about one-third the size of the original grandstand that still stands watch on the new backstretch.   In addition to the large simulcast areas that opened Monday, the preview on Thursday night allowed horsemen to sample the new fare at Pink, the 300-seat tiered clubhouse area.  The main bar area known as Lounge, doubles as a nightclub.  Trotters, a high-end owners club sold out for the season at $2,500 per four top.   Asked about watching his dream come to fruition, Gural was proud, but pragmatic.  “It feels good.  We will see how it goes on Saturday.  Hopefully we will have a good crowd and things won’t get too crazy.  I am really excited and I think that the place is beautiful.  Hopefully we will get the people to turn out the way they used to.”   For all of Gural and his staff’s efforts, Thursday’s preview went smoothly, and his generosity was rewarded by a full clubhouse.  Pink was packed with horsemen that were invited to a complimentary meal while watching the qualifying races.  “The Boss,” as Gural is sometimes referred to in program promotions, meandered around the tables, greeting guests and industry leaders like the maître d’ at a fine restaurant.  Director of Racing Darin Zocalli tweeted and showed well-wishers pictures of his young son on his iPhone.   Indeed it is a new era, and the facility and its interaction with the public is ready for the digital age.  There are hi-def TV’s everywhere and the requisite cell signal and WiFi coverage is excellent.  While touring the facility, it is clear that everything has been thought of.  Nonetheless, it is also evident that “the Boss” does not sail this ship alone.   Team Gural, is an assembly of young, vibrant and savvy harness racing experts and marketing gurus.  For their part, not only have they helped spend over $90,000,000 of Gural and equity partners’  investment capital, but these folks have also helped shape what harness racing will look like in the near, and perhaps, distant future.   CEO and General Manager Jason Settlemoir, who never seems to get tired, stated “We have been working at a very hectic pace over the last year in an effort to be ready.  Our soft openings have been successful, especially with the qualifier preview and the food and beverage services.  Now that we are coming down to the wire, I expect it will be just like a horse race—fast and furious!”   Long-time announcer Ken Warkentin, who has called the last fourteen Hambletonians, exclaimed, “It’s like working at a new track, like a new job.  It’s a new era!”  Seated at the new TV studio with his witty side-kick, Bob “Hollywood” Heyden, the pair could not be more at home.  “I live for nights like this,” recent Hall of Famer Heyden noted.  “You are witnessing something very special.”   Director of simulcasting, Hall of Famer Sam McKee was equally optimistic. “It’s very exciting.  I think it will be a lot like when the Meadowlands first opened, just on a smaller scale.  The old building seated 35,000.  I have read stories where 45,000 tried to get in.  Now, we might seat 5,000.  But, we could have 8 or 10 thousand and it would be the same thing!”   When asked about the most fulfilling part of his job, CEO Settlemoir was quick to answer, “To work with a group of people who are as dedicated as the employees here at Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment.  Past that, it has been refreshing to not only work with these dedicated people, but also to see their passion, and how much they have put their time and energy in to this facility.  They have made sure everything has been thought of, and that no stone has been left unturned.  The horsemen have been great too, they stepped up and filled the box the other day when we needed them.  I am very grateful.”   Post time is 7:15 pm and a free program is available by clicking HERE: http://meadowlandsracetrack.com/uploadedFiles/Handicapping/Past_Performances/mxx1123e.pdf   by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com

Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment presented nine preview qualifying races at 6:00pm on Monday evening looking toward Saturday’s Grand Opening and the last few races showcased several of harness racing’s top performers.   A few of the season’s fastest freshman pacing colts used tonight as a tightner for next Saturday’s $534,500 Governor’s Cup stake. A pair of Ron Burke trainees hit the wire together with Somestarsomewhere hanging on by a short nose over JK Endofanera in 1:51.4 with a wicked 26- final quarter after setting all the pace for Yannick Gingras. Burke Racing owns this son of Somebeachsomewhere, who set the freshman track record of 1:49.2 at The Red Mile this fall and won his Breeders Crown elim in a world record 1:49.4 at Pocono, with Weaver Bruscemi, Yanek & Carr.     The seventh race, three year old pacing fillies prepping for the Nadia Lobell, pitted this year’s top sophomore I Luv The Nitelife against last’s season division leader Somewherovrarainbow, who was making her first start out of the Joe Holloway barn. They went around the oval in that order through 27.2 / 55.4 / 1:23.3 fractions and flew home in 26.3 for a time of 1:50.1 with “Nitelife” a length and a half winner. Tim Tetrick was behind the filly, as he has been in all of her starts and she looked as sharp as she has at any point this season. Chris Ryder conditions the Rocknroll Hanover filly for Richard and Joanne Young.   The most exciting news of the fall season is that top three year old pacing colt Captaintreacherous is slated to face older horses in the $500,000 TVG FFA Final on November 30, a feat that hasn’t been attempted in decades. The “Captain” used tonight’s qualifier to hone to a razor’s edge with a 1:49.3 waltz around the racetrack. Tetrick guided him through even fractions with a 27- kicker on the end.   Captaintreacherous has also held his form remarkably over the long and taxing summer and was turned out beautifully for tonight’s race by trainer Tony Alagna and his team. All that remains is for the connections, ownership group Captaintreacherous Racing headed by Myron Bell, and Tony to deem him fit for the race and we’ll get to see the match-up that we’d like.   The last race saw Pet Rock getting some work in toward that same TVG Final goal, where he will certainly be a main contender. Dave Miller put him right on the lead through soft numbers then sprinted home in 26.1 to win in 1:50.4. Trainer Virgil Morgan has Frank Bellino’s Rocknroll Hanover stud dead sharp for the last start of his career next Saturday before he heads off to Midland Farms in Ohio to embark on his new career.   Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment General Manager and CEO Jason Settlemoir observed, “Having the two preview nights to allow the servers and food prep the opportunity to get familiar with their jobs in the new space has been invaluable. Thanks to the horsemen for supporting it with their participation and to all of our employees for their hard work and dedication as we prepare for Saturday’s Grand Opening.”   Check The Meadowlands website for more information on tonight and Saturday’s races.   by Nick Salvi for the Meadowlands

Anticipation continues to build in advance of Saturday’s grand opening of the Meadowlands Racetrack’s new, $88-million grandstand. Now, fans of the ‘Mecca of Harness Racing’ can take a sneak peek of how the facility looks heading into opening weekend. “What you’re seeing here today is a culmination of all of the hard work of our construction folks here that have done a fantastic job getting us to the finish line,” said Jason Settlemoir, the CEO and general manager of Meadowlands Racetrack. As John Brennan’s report for The Bergen Record explains, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday before the first race gets going at 7:15 p.m. “It’s not as big as the other place (the old grandstand),” said Settlemoir. “It’s 135,000 square feet enclosed in the building. With all of the decks and everything like that it is about 180,000 square feet, so it is about a third of the size as the other facility, but this is much more intimate and efficient. And on Saturday night, as I’ve said before, I expect this place to be bumpin’.” Check out the video below. Reprinted with permission by www.standardbredcanada.ca with files from The Bergen Record)

VERNON, NY – For the third consecutive season, Vernon Downs experienced a double-digit increase in export handle, the amount of money wagered at off-track locations on races at Vernon Downs. For the 2013 season, which concluded November 9, export handle was up 17 percent. In the past three seasons, the export handle has increased a total of 63 percent. “Posting a third straight handle increase reaffirms that the horseplayers across North America are in favor of full competitive fields and a strong stakes program,” said Scott Warren, Director of Racing.  “We worked very hard this year to expand the reach of our simulcast signal into new markets like California, and this season showed that the effort of our entire staff continues to pay off.” Export handle increased 175 percent on Empire Breeders Classic day in June, 110 percent on Credit Winner/Muscle Hill night in September and 26 percent on Drivers’ Championship/Zweig Memorial night in August. “A tremendous amount of credit needs to go to Scott Warren who continues to put together full, competitive fields that drive our handle in the positive direction,” said Jason Settlemoir, Vice President of Racing. “A big thank you also goes to the horsemen and fans that supported Vernon Downs racing in 2013.” On the track, more history was made during the track’s 60th anniversary of racing. Vernon Downs based Royalty For Life captured the $1.5 million Hambletonian in August; harness racing’s most prestigious race held at the Meadowlands. Royalty For Life then came back to his home track and won Vernon’s Zweig Memorial over a field of star-studded 3-year-old trotters. Canadian trotter Intimidate broke the all-time Vernon Downs track record with his thrilling win in the Credit Winner Open Trot in September in a final time of 1:51. In June, the largest on-track crowd of the season, nearly 6,000, witnessed the first ever camel and ostrich races in Vernon Downs history. Rick Plano finished the season as the track’s runaway leading driver and trainer. The 62-year-old Central New York native achieved the feat for the second straight year. by Justin Horowitz for Vernon Downs

East Rutherford, NJ - As Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment prepares for its grand opening, a look back on the final season raced in the original grandstand reveals inspiring results. The Meadowlands raced 72 days from December 27, 2012 through Hambletonian Day, August 3, 2013 and The Meadowlands can proudly announce that total handle for the 72 days surpassed $204 Million. The average handle per night was $2,843,203. “After receiving the final numbers, seeing our handle exceeded $200 Million is something all of harness racing can be proud of,” said Director of Racing Operations Darin Zoccali. “This past season was a transition year for us and to have had the type of success we had is extremely promising. On the heels of one of best racing seasons at The Meadowlands in years, we are obviously all extremely excited to see what 2014 and the new Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment will bring.” Compared to 2012, the total handle, despite racing six less days, yielded an increase of over $44 Million, or 28-percent. The average daily handle of $2,843,203 was an increase of more than $700,000 over the average daily handle in 2012, or 33-percent. “We did a lot of things differently this past year,” said General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “We got rid of the notion that change cannot be positive because the way things have always been done takes precedent. From changes to our wagering format, to pursuing bigger bettors, making an integrity-driven product our top priority, dramatically increasing event marketing and providing outstanding customer service, this past season has provided a template for our future success. Now, adding all of that to a brand new, state of the art facility, we cannot wait to see what 2014 will bring.” Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment has its Grand Opening on Saturday November 23rd, with first post time at 7:15 P.M. The opening night program features eliminations for the Fall Final Four and the final preliminary legs of the TVG Free For All Championships. Thanksgiving weekend features cards on both Friday November 29th and Saturday November 30th. The November 30th card will be one of the best of the year for the sport of harness racing with Finals of the Nadia Lobell, Moni Maker, Fall Final Four and TVG Free For All Championships. Purses for the evening will surpass $3 Million. In addition, Horse of the Year will be on the line as Bee A Magician looks to put a bow on an undefeated season, while Captaintreacherous hopes to defeat the best Free For All Pacers in the world. It will be a night to remember. Visit www.PlayMeadowlands.com for details. by Rachel Ryan for the Meadowlands  

Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment will host two nights of qualifying races prior to the grand opening of its new facility.  Those dates will be Thursday November 14th and Thursday November 21st.  Post time for the November 14th qualifiers will be 7:15 P.M., while the November 21st qualifiers will begin at 6:00 P.M.                 These qualifiers will be the first races being raced out of the new facility.  The box for both qualifiers closes Wednesday of the respective week at 10:00 A.M.                In addition to the qualifying races, these dates will be used as a “dry-run” as The Meadowlands prepares for its grand opening on Saturday November 23rd.  Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment General Manager/C.E.O. Jason Settlemoir believes this is a vital part of the process of opening a new facility.  “We have done this at all our other properties, Tioga, Vernon and Winners which hosted a press conference for The Meadowlands Pace,” said Settlemoir.  “We owe it to our customers to make sure that everything is flawless when we open the doors to the public and this will help accomplish that goal.”  Both nights will include an announcer calling the races.                   Thursday night November 21st will be a night for owners, trainers and drivers to get a preview of the new facility and will be able to watch the qualifying races while enjoying a complimentary dinner in Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment’s new tiered restaurant, “Pink.”  The event will be limited to 250 people with details to follow.   by Darin Zoccali for the Meadowlands

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