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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Two giants of harness racing are not only introducing a new wager that combines their considerable assets this Friday (March 22) but are also tackling an industry-wide source of frustration in the hopes of pleasing the customer. The "Can-Am Pick-4" will make its debut and requires a player to correctly select the winners of two races at the Meadowlands and two more at Woodbine Entertainment's Woodbine Mohawk Park. The bet will have a 20-Cent minimum, so players who are accustomed to a 50-Cent wager will have the option to increase their base bet or use more horses in the hopes of catching several longshots during the sequence. It will also sport a low 15 percent takeout. Leg One of the CAP4 will be Woodbine Mohawk Park's 10th race (post time, 10:40 p.m.), followed by the Meadowlands' 10th (10:52 p.m.), WMP's 11th (11:04 p.m.) is the third leg before the wager concludes with the 11th (11:16 p.m.) at the Big M. If all goes according to plan, the entire bet from start to finish will take 36 minutes, which is certain to be a hit with horseplayers. "For us, it's important to get things done in a timely fashion," said Klaus Ebner, Senior Manager of Simulcast Services for Woodbine. "The Can-Am Pick-4 locks up the customer's funds for a short span, allowing them to churn winning money into more wagering opportunities." But harness racing's two biggest tracks in terms of visibility and handle have more up their sleeves. The subject of post-time "drag" will be addressed by both tracks beginning with the Friday races. "As industry leaders, one of our goals - as well as our friends at Woodbine Entertainment - is to shorten the post-time drag before our races go to the gate," said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. "We will both be doing this as the leaders of this industry. We want to move the needle back on these outlandish drags but it will take an industry-wide initiative to make it happen. We will be taking the first step in doing so and are hoping that our fans will continue to wager the same or more." Both tracks are aiming for the following: -At three minutes past zero minutes to post, countdown clock starts -At four minutes, call to post -At five minutes, race goes off "This will allow the customer to understand when the race is going off," said Ebner. "It will have some certainty for them. Our main goal is we don't want our customers having to choose between wagering on Woodbine Mohawk Park and the Meadowlands. The coordination of post times will allow them access to the best two harness racing products in the world. We have worked together to stay off one another (not race at the same time) to the best of our abilities and, for the most part, the staffs at both tracks do a great job of doing that."   GET READY FOR MAYHEM: The NCAA college basketball tournament will be on overload this week with a full slate of games scheduled for Thursday through Sunday (March 21-24). Also on overload will be college basketball fans who will be watching and wagering on all of the hoops action in the Meadowlands' FanDuel Sportsbook, where there is plenty of comfortable seating with many food and drink options from which to choose. The action begins at noon, with 16 games on Thursday and Friday, before eight more matchups on Saturday and Sunday.   ORANGE CRUSHES: Driver Andy Miller, aka The Orange Crush, hot the hot hand last weekend (March 15-16) at the Big M, piloting seven horses to victory lane. Jenn Bongiorno paced the trainer's colony, winning three times from only five starts.   CALLING ALL T-BRED 'CAPPERS: On Saturday (March 23), the Meadowlands is hosting a National Horseplayers Championship qualifying event with a pair of seats to the NHC Final in Las Vegas (Feb. 7-9, 2020) on the line. The qualifier has a $400 entry fee. Pre-registration is recommended but walk-ups on the day of will be accepted. Need more information? Contact Rachel Ryan at raryan@playmeadowlands.com or go to www.playmeadowlands.com.   Dave Little Meadowlands Media Relations  

Country is taking over Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment on Saturday, June 15th when the multi-platinum selling duo, Thompson Square takes the stage. With romantically charged #1 hits like "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not" and "If I Didn't Have You," two Grammy nominations and honors as Vocal Duo of the Year from both the ACM and CMA Awards, Country duo Thompson Square's career has been the stuff dreams are made of. Brought together by love and undeniable talent, Keifer and Shawna each moved to Nashville separately but soon met while competing against one another in a local singing competition. They formed Thompson Square as complete unknowns, taking the Country scene by storm with an organic vocal blend that harkened back to the duets of icons like Johnny Cash and June Carter. Following the release of their 2X Grammy-nominated, double-Platinum breakout "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not," the Thompsons have been riding a wave of success that continues to this day, touring with superstars like Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum and Luke Bryan and racking up chart topping Country-radio favorites like the devoted "I Got You" and the flirty "Everything I Shouldn't Be Thinking About." With their third studio album, Masterpiece, the husband-and-wife team of Keifer and Shawna Thompson is back and at the top of their game, offering up a fresh batch of poetic and extremely personal Country music. "We are excited to bring such a Country power-house to the racetrack," stated Jason Settlemoir, COO & GM of Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. "We know there are thousands of Country fans in our area and we hope they all come out for an evening of great music and racing." Doors for the show open at 2:30 p.m. with the Jason Wicks Band getting the party started at 4 p.m. The headliner, Thompson Square will electrify the crowd beginning at 6 p.m. The party continues with live racing at 7:15 p.m. and Lauren Davidson on the stage.   Want to Go?: -What: Thompson Square   -When: Saturday, June 15, 2019   -Where: Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, 1 Racetrack Drive, East Rutherford, NJ   -Tickets: $20 in advance, $30 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at https://meadowlandsracetrack.ticketleap.com/thompsonsquare/   Rachel Ryan  

Dan Hopkins of Washington Township, NJ captured the March 16th World Harness Handicapping Championship Last Chance Qualifier presented by DerbyWars.com at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Hopkins increased his $200 starting bankroll to $900 with $100 to win wager on #2 Winning Linc in the Meadowlands twelfth race. This catapulted Hopkins into first place and the Qualifier win. Lee Stuckey of Sayreville, NJ, also qualified for the April 13th Final with his second place finish in Saturday's contest. Stuckey, a regular WHHC contest participant, hit on five of his ten wagers to finish with a $652 bankroll. Buffalo Raceway's weekend qualifier winner was Robert Konecki of Niagara Falls, NY. While TVG's March 16th contest qualified Scott Adams, Peter Dominic, Louis Ferolito and Richard Shamas. Konecki, Adams, Dominic, Ferolito and Shamas will all travel to the Meadowlands on April 13th. Players can still qualify for the WHHC for as low as $33 every night on DerbyWars.com. The World Harness Handicapping Championship presented by DerbyWars.com is a one-day tournament [April 13, 2019], with a welcome reception the evening prior. Players that did not earn a seat through a qualifying event can directly buy-in for $1,300. The $1,300 entry fee includes a $300 bankroll, with the remaining $1,000 going to the prize pool. The $150,000 prize pool is based on an estimated 150 entries. The WHHC contest format requires players to bet 10 races: their choice of seven Meadowlands races, plus three designated mandatory races. Players keep all pari-mutuel winnings. Prize payouts are to the Top 10. The WHHC Final brochure is available at http://playmeadowlands.com/contest_detail.aspx?id=8240   Rachel Ryan

The Meadowlands is hosting a live-money National Horseplayers Championship qualifying event this Saturday, March 23 that will provide two seats to the NHC Final in Las Vegas to be held February 7-9, 2020. The Meadowlands qualifier will have a $400 total fee - $200 will go towards the prize pool estimated at $20,000 and $200 will be used as a bankroll during the contest. All entry fees will be added to the prize pool, creating the rare zero percent takeout contest format. Entry also includes a Daily Racing Program and food vouchers. Contestants must wager on a minimum of 10 races from Aqueduct, Gulfstream, and/or Fair Grounds. Wagers can be win, place or show or any combination WPS on one horse per race. Pre-registration is strongly recommended although walk-up entries will be accepted on the day of the contest. Multiple entries per person are allowed. Contestants must be members of the NHC Tour to qualify for one of the two NHC Final seats. For more information, visit the contest home page or contact Tournament Director Rachel Ryan at raryan@playmeadowlands.com or (201) 842-5015.   by Rachel Ryan, for the Meadowlands

A limited number of seats remain for Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment's 5-course Blue Point Brewing Beer Dinner this Saturday, March 16th. Each course is expertly paired by Executive Chef Dennis Sammarone to showcase Blue Point's brews. 1st course: Brie, Manchego, Fig & Apricot with Blue Point Toasted Lager 2nd course: Fresh Guacamole with Jalapenos & Cumin served with house-made chips paired with Blue Point The IPA 3rd course: Beer-Steamed Mussels with Blue Point Shore Thing Lager 4th course: BBQ Ribs with Spicy Fries & Coleslaw with Blue Point Small Batch Hazy Bastard 5th course: Apple & Lemon Tart with fresh Whipped Cream & Blueberries paired with Blue Point Blueberry Ale Beer dinner guests also get a show on the racetrack with live harness racing kicking off at 7:15pm. For reservations call 201-The-BigM. For the full menu and beer descriptions click here.   Irish-themed Buffet this St. Patrick’s Weekend at the Meadowlands Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all weekend long with beer, food and voucher drawings.  Live harness racing kicks off at 7:15 pm both Friday & Saturday night. On Friday, March 15 guests can enjoy the $29.95 Irish themed buffet in Pink.  Potato & leek soup, Irish soda bread, corned beer & cabbage and shepherd’s pie are menu highlights.  Homemade shamrock cupcakes and brownies are a perfect sweet end to the night. On Friday & Saturday guests have a chance to leave with a little more green in their pockets in the “Go Green for Greenbacks” promotion.  Every time a driver with green in his colors wins two lucky fans win $50 betting vouchers. Entry forms are available in the live racing program and at the Players Club Desk.   For those wanting more Irish –themed fare on Saturday, March 16, diners can enjoy the $39.95 St. Patrick’s buffet in Pink.  The menu features hand-carved NY strip steak, Guinness battered cod & chips, corned beef & cabbage and shepherd’s pie.  Reservations for dining can be made by calling 201-TheBigM. For full menus, racing and event information click here.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Vinny Ginsburg and Dexter Dunn had the hot hands Friday night at the Meadowlands, as each drove three winners on the 13-race card. Ginsburg, who entered the night tied for 10th in the Big M driver standings, got his evening going with Hammer Creek in the second race conditioned trot, going went wire to wire in 1:58.1 and returning $8.20 as the second choice in the betting. Hammer Time was Ginsburg's second winner of the night in the fourth race conditioned trot, roaring past the field after going a third-over trip. He returned $4.00 to win as the second choice in the wagering after hitting the wire in 1:55. Miss Ruby completed Ginsburg's three-bagger in the ninth race conditioned trot, gunning down 3-5 favorite Miami by skimming the cones to grab the win in 1:54.4. As the second choice in the wagering, Miss Ruby returned $9.80 to her backers. Dunn, who started the night second in the standings, scored with favorite Dawson Springs ($6.00) in the first race conditioned trot in 1:55.3. He followed that up with victories behind Followthewind N ($9.20 as the third choice, 1:52.4) in the 10th race fillies and mares conditioned pace before completing his big night guiding Godspell Hall to an amazing victory in the 12th race conditioned trot. Racing in a fourth-over flow while last at three-quarters, Godspell Hall exploded by the field to score in 1:56.4 and return $8.60 to win as the third choice. TAG, YOU'RE IT: Tag Up And Go won the $18,000 feature for conditioned trotters in the seventh race. Marcus Miller piloted the Patti Harmon trainee to victory in 1:53.3 after going a third-over trip and paid $12.20 to win as the third choice in the betting. Rock Of Cashel, the 6-5 public choice, finished third while bidding for his third straight win. THE CLAIM GAME: Friday marked the first time the Big M has raced with increased purses since New Jersey lawmakers approved purse-subsidy legislation, and the action at the claiming box was hot and heavy as seven horses left at evening's end with new connections. A LITTLE MORE: One lucky player who lasted eight legs in the 20-Cent Survivor Pick-10 had the wager's lone winning ticket and walked away with $12,753. ... The 50-Cent Pick-4 pool topped six figures, as $100,022 in action was taken. ... All-source handle totaled $2,877,718. ... Racing resumes Saturday at 7:15 p.m.   By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations    

East Rutherford, NJ - Sponsors have rallied around the Grand Circuit stakes program at The Meadowlands, pledging their support for the upcoming harness racing season.   As a result the Governor's Cup and Three Diamonds freshman stakes will be raced as scheduled in November of 2019.   Nominators should continue the series of sustaining payments with the March 15 installment.   The Meadowlands is grateful for the support of those who stepped up to assure the entire slate of stakes will continue this season.   Those interested in becoming a Meadowlands stakes sponsor should contact Jason Hall at JHall@TiogaDowns.com or by phone at 607-972-6526.              

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Meadowlands is known for good business and good harness racing in the wintertime, but even the track's biggest supporters - whether management or fan - might have been a tad surprised at how things transpired at the mile oval over the course of the eight racing programs during the month of February. On the track, nobody did it better than driver Yannick Gingras. During the month, Gingras - who won 13 times during the opening weekend - visited the winner's circle 33 times. His win percentage was a gaudy 33 and he hit the board 57 percent of the time. The next three most prolific winning drivers - Dexter Dunn (14), Andy Miller (11) and Corey Callahan (9) - all did well yet combined to win only one more race than Gingras did all by himself. Trainer Ron Burke - who not surprisingly uses Gingras as his go-to pilot - also amassed remarkable February numbers, winning 18-of-46 starts, good for a win percentage of 39. Wagering at the sport's industry leader hit high gear during February when a total of $23,122,405 was pushed through the windows. Average handle per card was $2,890,300, while $222,330 was bet per race. The Big M's popular low takeout (15 per cent) multi-leg bets saw plenty of play. The eight February 50-Cent Pick-5 pools took $480,160 in action, averaging $60,020 per, while the 50-Cent Pick-4 handled $788,568, good for an average pool of $98,571. Last Saturday (Feb. 23), shrewd handicappers hit big when playing the wagers. The Pick-5 saw no winning favorites during its sequence, and as a result, those holding winning tickets cashed in for $14,703. On the same night, the Pick-4 came back an extremely appealing $4,492 despite a pair of winning "figure" horses. During that sequence, there was one winner who paid $7.80 as a second choice and another who came back $4.20 as the even-money favorite, with both driven by Gingras. The challenge for those who hit was having one 20-1 shot and one 15-1 chance, both of whom went inside trips as a contentious pace with a live outer flow unfolded around them, a common Meadowlands occurrence. The average Pick-5 payoff during February was $3,264 while the Pick-4 yielded $1,207. Free program pages for the Pick-4s for the upcoming Friday and Saturday programs are available - as always - by going to www.ustrotting.com or www.playmeadowlands.com. When racing resumes Friday at 7:15 p.m., 20-Cent Jackpot Super High-Five players have a pair of healthy carryovers to shoot for. In the fifth race, $54,633 will be the starting point, while in the 13th race, $14,065 will be up for grabs. February might be over, but there is much to look forward to in March. The first of two substantial purse increases take effect Friday. One such increase will be reflected in the seventh race Preferred Handicap for pacers, where the purse, which had been $21,000, will now offer $25,000 for the top five finishers to divvy up. "Good weather, competitive racing and full fields led to us having a great month of February," said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir, "the support of our horsemen was a big factor on how well things went. Starting this week, we hope to continue to get their support as we offer bigger purses, which should provide our fans with the wagering opportunities - specifically big fields - they want." COUNTDOWN TO MADNESS: College basketball's yearly stranglehold on the sports world begins March 19, as "March Madness" gets underway. For the first time ever, Meadowlands fans can watch and wager on each and every one of the games in the Big M's FanDuel Sportsbook. LET ME BE YOUR TEDDY BEAR: On Friday (March 1), spend an evening with Elvis Presley impersonator Ralph Carey, who will take you through the career of "The King". They'll be music, laughter and memories, and you get the show plus a buffet dinner for only $29.95. Call 201-THE-BIGM for reservations. CATCH THE FEVER: On March 1 and 2, there will literally be plenty of money up for grabs at the Meadowlands. Six contestants will be selected to spend 30 seconds in the track's "Cash Money Machine" and grab as much green as they can before the clock runs out. To be eligible, one must enter before the fifth race with the contest to take place after the sixth. Contestants must "catch and hold" as much cash as they can. The available denominations are $1, $2, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 and $500. While in the money machine, participants must face forward and catch the cash, no bending down or turning around will be allowed. All monies must be collected in the provided cooler bag. No money in pockets or hugged to the body will count towards the prize money. WHHC QUALIFIER: On Saturday (March 16), there will be a last chance $200 qualifier for the World Harness Handicapping Championship at the Big M. For complete information, go to http://playmeadowlands.com/uploadedFiles/2019%20March%20WHHC%20qualifier_Rev1.pdf. Meadowlands Media Relations

East Rutherford, NJ - Scott Warren has been named Racing Secretary at The Meadowlands beginning March 1, succeeding Peter Koch who departs to pursue another opportunity.   Mr. Warren hails from Berlin, Maryland where he began working in the Racing Office at Ocean Downs as a teen. This venture led to a 17 year stint on the Maryland Standardbred circuit; first as a Race Office Assistant followed by track announcer at the aforementioned establishment prior to taking over as Racing Secretary at Rosecroft Raceway. He relocated his skill sets to Vernon Downs to serve as the Racing Secretary in 2011 and was eventually named Director of Racing handling many racing related responsibilities including calling the races since the 2015 season. During his new assignment with Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Warren will continue serving as the race secretary at Vernon Downs. Scott has been in the Meadowlands office since January 1, working with Pete Koch to become familiar with the horsemen and the racing product. "I would like to thank Jeff Gural and Jason Settlemoir for giving me this opportunity to work at The Meadowlands. It is a dream come true," said Warren. "There are numerous people that have been influential along the way, but this wouldn't be happening now if it wasn't for Rick Bonekemper giving me the chance as a teenager for a couple summer meets at Ocean Downs and bringing me along to Rosecroft in 1995 and Jason Settlemoir for hiring me at Vernon Downs, which ultimately has given me the opportunity now to work at the biggest track in harness racing." "It also wouldn't be possible to take on this position without the talented supporting cast I will work with over the course of the year in the Meadowlands Racing office. It is an exciting time right now at The Meadowlands with the increased money for purses that will hopefully make racing even better than it already is."   Nick Salvi

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Wagering reached the magic $3-million mark for the first time at the meeting and the team of harness racing trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras combined to win an incredible six races on Saturday night at the Meadowlands. Twice during the course of the 13-race program, which saw all-source play total $3,147,209, single-race total wagering was in excess of $300,000. The Big M's signature 50-Cent Pick-4 saw its biggest pool of the year as $110,700 was pushed through the windows for the wager which spans races eight through 11. The sequence saw Burke and Gingras win twice, but when the dust cleared, no winning favorites scored leading to a payoff of $1,083.80. It was almost inconceivable that Burke and Gingras would top their five-win Friday night, but they did just that, scoring a half-dozen times on the Saturday program, good for a total of 11 victories over the course of the 26-race, two-card race week. Gingras won twice without Burke on Friday to tally a total of 13 times over the two cards. Saturday's edition of "Yannick and Ronnie's Awesome Night at the Races" started with a sweep of the Early Daily Double, as Try Try Again - making his first start for the Burke Brigade - scored from post nine in 1:55.1 in a non-winners of $5,000 trot as the 2-5 favorite. Approximately 20 minutes later, K-Lees Shakenbake won a $15,000 up to $20,000 claiming handicap pace in 1:51.3 as the 4-5 public choice, capping the $6.20 DD. Race six saw the dynamic duo win for the third time on the card with even-money choice Windsong Jack in 1:51.2 in a non-winners of $8,500 pace before the potent pair thrilled their backers with a pair of prices. Fireball took the ninth race non-winners of $8,500 pace in 1:52.2 at odds of 9-2 before 3-1 chance Ginger Tree Marty won race 10, a non-winners of $5,000 pace, in 1:52 to complete a Daily Double that returned $72.40. Larry Karr completed the sextet in race 12 as the 2-5 choice in a non-winners of four pace. The 4-year-old gelding went a tough uncovered trip to win for the fourth time in five starts. A LITTLE MORE: One simulcast player wagering into the Twin Spires hub was the only bettor to last eight legs in the 20-Cent Survivor Pick-10 and cashed in for $11,542.44. ... Racing resumes Friday at 7:15 p.m. By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

TRENTON, NJ — January 28, 2019 — The New Jersey state Assembly Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a bill that would provide  a five-year appropriation of $20 million a year to benefit the New Jersey breeding program and open spaces and the New Jersey Sire Stakes and the purses at the Meadowlands Racetrack, Monmouth Park and Freehold Raceway. The New Jersey Racing Commission would distribute the funds to the three racetracks and it would provide a much-needed boost to the standardbred and Thoroughbred industry in New Jersey. The complete state Assembly will vote on the bill on Thursday January 31, 2019.  Should the bill pass the Assembly, it would then go to Governor Phil Murphy for approval before it can become a law. Courtney Stafford

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Geez Joe got back into the win column after consecutive failures as the harness racing favorite, scoring by the smallest of margins over rival K Ryan Bluechip in the Saturday night feature at the Meadowlands, the $21,000 Preferred Handicap for pacers. The betting public made their opinion clear, as Geez Joe was sent to the gate as the 2-5 favorite, the fourth consecutive time the Erv Miller trainee was the public choice in the Big M's weekly marquee pacing event. Geez Joe and driver Marcus Miller left the gate alertly from post six in the six-horse field but had to settle for the four hole in the early going as 30-1 shot New Talent hit the quarter in :26.1. Geez Joe vacated his spot just before the half and started to cut into New Talent's lead while racing uncovered, and at the head of the stretch, the duo were on even terms. Geez Joe wore down the longshot mid-lane but bursting on the scene late was K Ryan Bluechip, the 4-1 second choice who was last in a third-over flow at three-quarters, flying on the far outside as Geez Joe was straining to hold on. The pair hit the wire together, and after the judges took several minutes to examine the photo, they put up Geez Joe's number. New Talent held on for third. The time for the mile was 1:50.2. The winner, a 5-year-old son of Roll With Joe-Beach Bretta, returned $2.80 to win for owner Bay Pond Racing Stable. Geez Joe has now won 17-of-55 lifetime starts and earned $228,978. It was a huge weekend for the father-son team of Erv and Marcus Miller. They combined to win both weekly features, scoring Friday with Trolley in the Preferred Handicap for trotters before Geez Joe's score Saturday. Over the course of the two-card race week, Marcus drove five winners while Erv trained three. A LITTLE MORE: Due to the inclement weather, the 14-race card saw a total of 21 scratches. Despite that, all-source wagering was still strong, at $2,309,847. ... Marcus Miller had a driving triple on the program, while Dexter Dunn, Pat Berry and Eric Carlson all had two apiece. Carlson swept the Late Daily Double. ... On the training side, Erv Miller, Mark Ford and Jeff Cullipher all had two winners each. ... A simulcast patron wagering into the Portland hub was the only player to go eight-for-10 in the 20-Cent Survivor Pick-10 wager and walked away with $8,018. ... Racing resumes Friday at 7:15 p.m. By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations  

ASBURY PARK, NJ -- January 18, 2019 -- A testament to the harness racing and equine industry industry's viability is that horse racing has survived on its own without state support in New Jersey. Both Pennsylvania and New York supplement the expansion of gaming within their borders to promote their horse racing industry. This has resulted in a boom in both their racing and breeding programs. Due to New Jersey being in direct competition with these two bordering states, it has struggled to keep up the pace. Specifically, New Jersey has been unable to match the millions of dollars both Pennsylvania and New York are able to pump into purse accounts and enhancing breeding programs. A bill introduced in the New Jersey Legislature four months ago would provide a $20 million subsidy to the industry to make it more competitive. But it has been stalled, and if the legislation isn't approved soon, it could be too late. According to the United States Trotting Association, purse awards in New Jersey and surrounding states in 2007 were: New York $97,689,858; Pennsylvania $58,969,119; and New Jersey $68, 843,978. In comparison, by 2013, New Jersey's purse awards dropped by 54 percent while New York and Pennsylvania purse awards increased 23 percent and 83 percent respectively because they had the benefit of state support. As a 2014 Rutgers Equine Science Center report indicated, breeding also has been dramatically affected -- resulting in a decrease of jobs for New Jersey residents. For thoroughbreds the decrease for mares bred was 57 percent, stallions 43 percent and foals 44 percent. The decrease for the standardbred was far more drastic; mares bred down 77 percent, stallions down 64 percent, yearlings in the Sire Stakes program down 54 percent. The horse racing industry in New Jersey has an extensive and rich history. Two New Jersey racetracks that have roots in the mid-19th century are still in operation today. Freehold Raceway was established in 1853, The Monmouth Park racetrack has been a Shore tradition since 1870. Live harness racing began at the Meadowlands in 1976. In 2007, the New Jersey equine industry was valued at $4 billion and it produced an economic impact of $1.1 billion, comprised of the $278.2 million spent annually for racing-related operations, not including racetracks; $262.4 million spent annually by non-racing operations; $117.8 million spent annually by equine owners without operations; and $502 million spent annually by New Jersey racetracks. The industry employed approximately 13,000 persons and generated $160 million in tax revenue annually. In 2007, there were horses in 7,200 individual facilities on 176,000 acres statewide. In the last seven years, we have lost major standardbred farms. In 2013, Perretti Farms, once the 900-acre home of elite stallions and as many as 400 first-class broodmares, closed and was forced to sell all of their horses. Without the support of the state, the farm could not contend with surrounding states that enjoy state-supplemented purses. In 2015, the 150-plus acre Showplace Farms, a premier training center for more than 35 years and home to more than 400 standardbred racehorses, closed its doors citing "fewer horses racing and the current economic climate in New Jersey." The industry and horse farms not only aid and protect the preservation of open space in New Jersey, they support the entire agribusiness of hay producers, straw producers, grain producers, trainers, grooms, veterinarians, equine dentists and blacksmiths. If the horse racing industry fails, these support businesses stop production and contribution to the New Jersey economy as well. Even with all the decline within the industry in New Jersey, the Meadowlands Racetrack is still considered to be a foremost racetrack. The state stopped investing in horse racing, but the industry kept investing. Operators of the Meadowlands Racetrack opened off-track wagering (OTW) facilities in 2012 at a cost of $17 million and built a new grandstand at a cost of well over $100 million. Operators of Monmouth Park spent $7.5 million on improvements on equipment, operations and opening OTW locations. In 2014, Monmouth Park starting building a 7,500-seat concert hall and restaurant. If racing related-activities continue to leave New Jersey, the state stands to lose its premier agribusiness that generates $780 million in economic impact annually, including jobs, federal, state and local taxes and 57,000 acres of working agricultural landscape and open space. To view the full story. Mark Ford, president of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey.

Trolley is back on track. Harness racing trainer Erv Miller just hopes he can stay there. A 6-year-old male trotter, Trolley has won four of six races since returning from a 13-month absence because of a broken coffin bone. He won last week's Preferred Handicap at the Meadowlands by three-quarters of a length over Muscle Diamond and is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line in Friday's (Jan. 18) $21,000 Preferred Handicap at the Big M. Melady's Monet, who brings a three-race win streak to the event, is the 9-5 favorite. Friday's 14-race card begins at 7:15 p.m. (EST). "Trolley is on his way back, I hope," Miller said. "If he stays healthy, we'll see where he can go. I think we'll see a pretty good horse. He can really go. He's showed the talent off-and-on and we've just been waiting on him." For his career, Trolley has won 12 of 26 races and earned $302,959 for owners Michael Anderson, Leland Mathias, Greg Gillis, and Andy Willinger. He started a total of only seven times at ages 2 and 3, but was a two-time winner on the Pennsylvania-stakes circuit and runner-up to Southwind Frank in the 2016 Beal Memorial. As a 4-year-old, he won six of 13 races and established his career mark of 1:51.4 at the Meadowlands. "He was a real immature horse early," Miller said. "He was a big horse - big, strong horse - he just wasn't ready to go young. As he got older, he kept getting better and better. He showed some real talent so we kept hanging on with him. Hopefully he's going to pay us back for waiting on him. "We tried standing him (at stud) last year. But if he holds up for us, we'll be glad it didn't work out. He's sure coming back good so far." Trolley, driven regularly by Marcus Miller, is a son of Donato Hanover out of Lakeside Bride. He was purchased as a yearling for $30,000 at the 2014 Lexington Selected Sale. "He wasn't a real pricey horse because he was a little oversized for a young horse," Miller said. "He's made money along the way. It's not like he's not been paying his way. "He's a nice horse to be around. He gets around real good. He's versatile. He can race from the back or on the front, it doesn't matter which way you race him. He's a big, strong horse." Miller will be watching Trolley in the coming weeks to determine how to stake the horse when payments are due in February. "If he stays healthy until staking time until February, we'll be putting him in some stakes races," Miller said. "I think he's a top horse if we get enough races in him and he stays sound. Right now he seems as sound as he's ever been in his life. Hopefully that will keep going. Hopefully we're ready to rock along." For Friday's complete Meadowlands entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Meadowlands will honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a special harness racing event Friday (Jan. 18) night, when they host a race that will feature African-American drivers exclusively in the first of 14 races on the card. Post time is 7:15 p.m. Mike Cruse's name will be one of the more recognizable to Meadowlands' regulars. During his career, he's won 282 races, the most recent coming at the Big M in May of last year when he and Mr Heaven hit the wire six lengths to the good in 1:51. Yes, he is ready to compete, but also anxious to remind all fans why the event is taking place: To honor the birthday of the slain civil rights leader. "Dr. King was always adamant about a better quality of life for black Americans," said Cruse of Dr. King, who was born on Jan. 15, 1929, "and not only black Americans, but better quality of life for all Americans. He was a powerful guy. We have a lot of admiration for him." When the question of the lack of black participants in harness racing was raised, Cruse explained that they are there, just not in the high-visibility jobs. "I just think it's the way we position ourselves in the business," he said, "there are a lot of black farriers, grooms and caretakers." "We are all highly enthused about the race," said Cruse of himself and the nine drivers he'll do battle with, "a lot of the black drivers don't have the opportunity to drive in the limelight of the Meadowlands. Everyone wants to race at the mecca of the sport." Cruse is hopeful that the action will be fast and furious - at the windows. "I would like to see everyone come out and bet the race," he said, "we are a competitive field of drivers. You can't bet your Tetricks or your Callahans in here. It's a gambler's paradise. Anyone can win the race." Cruse will be the guest on "In the Sulky", which can be seen Friday night at 6:45 p.m. on the live simulcast presentation of "Racing from the Meadowlands." A LOT TO HANDLE: There have been four race cards at the Big M thus far in 2019, and on each program, wagering has reached $2.5 million, with an average per race - over the 54 races - of $201,786. ... On Saturday (Jan. 12), a 2019-best $109,617 was pushed through the windows on the 50-Cent Pick-4 wager. The average pool thus far this year is $100,722. ... The 50-Cent Pick-5 has done well since switching to the first race on the card, with an average pool of $58,917. ... Free program pages for the Pick-4 are available at www.ustrotting.com and www.playmeadowlands.com. ... Driver Dexter Dunn was red-hot last weekend (Jan. 11-12), winning seven times. CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP DAY AT FANDUEL: The action will be huge on Sunday (Jan. 20) at the Big M's FanDuel Sports Book when the Los Angeles Rams travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in the NFC Championship Game at 3:05 p.m. At 6:40 p.m., the AFC title matchup pits the New England Patriots - who are playing in their eighth consecutive conference championship - going to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. EAT AT PINK'S, WHERE IT'S OK TO WINE: A limited number of seats remain for this Friday's (Jan. 18) five-course Italian wine dinner in the Big M's Pink Restaurant's SkyBox Suites. The dinner is $70 per person. For reservations, call 201-460-4079. WHHC RESULTS: Stephanie Davis, James Michael, George Wagner and Tim Platt were the top four finishers, respectively, in last Saturday's (Jan. 12) World Harness Handicapping Championship Qualifier, presented by DerbyWars.com, at the Meadowlands. The foursome will now advance to the WHHC Final on April 13 at the Big M, which offers $150,000 in prize money (based on 150 entries). For a complete qualifier schedule, go to http://playmeadowlands.com/contest_detail.aspx?id=8240. By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

Marcus Melander's name will be on the U.S. Harness Writers Association's 2018 Rising Star Award, but the 27-year-old trainer says the recognition extends beyond one person. "It's a great accomplishment, but it's not really just my award," Melander said. "It's my whole barn. If I didn't have all these people working with me, I wouldn't do any good. That's why we've been having success; it's a lot because of them. We have a good team. And then you need to have owners that support you. That's very important, too. I'm lucky to have owners that support me a hundred percent." Melander, who joined Nancy Johansson as the only trainers to receive the Rising Star Award in the past 20 years, saw his stable earn $2.86 million in purses last year, good enough to finish 15th among all trainers in North America despite having the fifth-fewest starts (219) among all trainers in the top 50. His top horse was undefeated male trotter Gimpanzee, who saw his 9-for-9 campaign at age 2 rewarded with the division's Dan Patch Award. Gimpanzee's victories for owners Anders Ström's Courant Inc. and Lennart Agren's S R F Stable included the Breeders Crown and New York Sire Stakes championship. Melander's stable also saw 2-year-old male trotter Green Manalishi S win the William Wellwood Memorial and finish second in both the Breeders Crown and Peter Haughton Memorial. Another male 2-year-old trotter, Greenshoe, won the New Jersey Sire Stakes title. "We had a really good year, especially with the 2-year-olds," Melander sad. "We didn't have that many 3-year-olds, but the 2-year-olds did great." In addition, older trotters Cruzado Dela Noche and Crazy Wow -- both July additions to Melander's stable -- posted top Grand Circuit triumphs, with Cruzado Dela Noche capturing the Yonkers International Trot and Crazy Wow the Maple Leaf Trot. Those wins came at odds of 30-1 and 31-1, respectively. "We had a little luck getting Crazy Wow and Cruzado Dela Noche in the middle of the summer," Melander said. "You've got to have a little luck in the races, but both those horses raced great on those particular days." Melander, who employs a staff of a dozen people, enters 2019 with 60 horses in training and is looking to build off last year's success. "(Gimpanzee and Green Manalishi S) are doing very good," Melander said. "I brought them back in early December so they've been training for over a month now. They filled out very nicely. They're probably going to grow a little bit more during the winter. I'm very happy with how they're feeling so far." Greenshoe, Gerry, and Demon Onthe Hill add depth to Melander's group of male 3-year-old trotters. Greenshoe was limited to four starts last year because of immaturity and sickness while Gerry and Demon Onthe Hill both were winners on the Pennsylvania-stakes circuit. "Hopefully (Greenshoe) will mature more during the winter and develop a little bit too," Melander said. "He's a very fast horse, probably the fastest of any of my horses out of the 3-year-olds, but he was a little too anxious last year. He's been very quiet here at home. He's doing good. I couldn't be any happier with him at this moment. We'll see in three months. "The 3-year-old colts look really good. Gerry was a really good horse last year and Demon Onthe Hill is a nice horse too. He might be a little bit under the best, best ones, but I think we have at least four of them that could be top Grand Circuit horses." Among Melander's 2-year-olds are two high-priced female trotters, Fifty Cent Piece (who sold for $500,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale) and Bellareina Dolce ($400,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale). Both are owned by Lennart Agren's S R F Stables. Melander, the nephew of trainer Stefan Melander, came to the U.S. from Sweden less than six years ago and worked for trainer Jimmy Takter before starting his own stable in late 2014. He is based in New Egypt, N.J., at a farm that was home previously to each the legendary Stanley Dancer and Continental Farms stables. He got his first Grand Circuit win in 2016 with trotter Long Tom, who was a 2-year-old at the time. The following year, Long Tom was joined by 3-year-old Enterprise and 2-year-old Fourth Dimension in adding to Melander's Grand Circuit resume. Fourth Dimension, who was injured last year and retired, ended 2017 as the Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter. "We built (the stable) up, no rush really," Melander said. "The first year we had 10 horses, then 25, then 40 to 45 and now we have 60. And you get better horses. It really started that year we got Long Tom and Enterprise. They had success. And then we had Fourth Dimension. Those horses really put you on the map. "Everything has been developing great, really. I'm still developing too. I still have things to learn, it will come with age. Hopefully I've got many years left in this sport." Melander will be among the honorees at the U.S. Trotting Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet on Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla., at which time Trotter, Pacer and Horse of the Year will be revealed. For more information about the resort and banquet visit the U.S. Trotting Association's website.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com @harnessracenews @HarnessKenW      

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