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East Rutherford, NJ - The number of horses entered this morning for the weekend harness racing draw at The Meadowlands was a staggering 777.   With the purse account under duress from compromised revenue streams this year, the number of races will remain at 13 for each day which leaves more than 500 horses with no place to race. There is simply not the revenue in The Meadowlands purse account to fund the addition of more racing days.   Recognizing that the hardship continues to increase for owners and trainers as more time passes time passes without an answer on how to get horses raced and when the various sires stakes will get underway, Jeff Gural has a thought to try and give more horses a chance to race.   Pending NJ Commission and state approval, The Meadowlands would consider leasing the track to horsemen's associations to add a race card beginning next week for a few weeks as necessary until more tracks open, provided they could fund the purses from their purse or sires stake account.   Nick Salvi

Nichols, NY - Tioga Downs will host the first Grand Circuit stake of the 2020 harness racing season when the 1st leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old trotters comes to the Southern Tier of New York on Sunday, June 14.   The draw for the June 14 card will be on Thursday, June 11 with a box closing at 9:00AM.    Electronic entry for the Graduate Series is now available on etrack.   Be advised; Post time for all Tioga Downs race cards will be 4:00PM on Sunday and Monday for the month of June.   Horses shipping in for stakes will be assigned stalls in a ship in barn and will remain in those stalls through the race. There is no detention and we ask that you ship up day of the race and ship back out as soon as practically possible.    The NY COVID-19 Protocol is available on the web and the pracrices are much like they are at Meadowlands. We are pleased to host the Graduate Series and our other stakes but we must insist that you follow these guidelines explicitly as to not jeopardize our status.   The Graduate Pacing Leg #1, Roll With Joe Open Pacing stake and NYSS for 3-year-old filly trotters will all be raced on Sunday, June 21.   Questions should be directed to the Racing Office at 607-699-7688.     Nick Salvi

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands took harness racing entries for qualifiers and baby races this morning and when Race Secretary Scott Warren peered into the online entries he was not surprised to see 351 entries but shocked that only four were 2-year-olds. So no babies this week.   There are 26 qualifiers again but split over Friday and Saturday mornings at 9:00AM each day.    Horsemen, please do not let your guard down this week concerning the protocols New Jersey requires of us. Mask, gloves, questionnaire and social distancing. Last week the cooperation was remarkable and we made a positive impression on the authorities. Let's stay the course and protect the opportunity to race that we all cherish.   Owners are again asked not to attend and watch at home. Following this directive is inconvenient and frustrating but necessary. With luck, they will be there when it counts.   Among the stars over the two mornings of qualifiers are pacing stalwarts like last year's top 3-year-old pacers Bettors Wish (race 11) and Warrawee Ubeaut (race 4) who faces familiar rivals Tall Drink Hanover and Wiggle It Jiggleit (race 13) is back at The Meadowlands on Friday for the first time since the 2016 Breeders Crown. Wow!   Saturday morning is loaded with many of last season's top freshman trotters and pacers gearing up for the stakes season.   Of course the really big news is that The Meadowlands is racing live on Friday and Saturday at 7:15PM with giant 13 race cards and full fields. We are celebrating with free program pages for the entire card. We solicit your support.     Nick Salvi  

East Rutherford, NJ - The business of getting the Baby Racing harness racing season underway at The Meadowlands is quickly coming into focus. Entries will be taken for this week's 2-year-old races along with the qualifiers on Wednesday morning until 10:00AM.   Based upon the number of entries it will be determined if qualifiers and babies will all go on Saturday or the number is so large they must be split over Friday and Saturday mornings.   The Meadowlands racetrack will be open for the training of 2-year-olds only on Thursday, June 4. The paddock will be used and the number of horses will be limited to 100 with a maximum of 15 for any stable. Call the Racing Office to sign up.   The gates will open at 7:00AM and the same requirements that were required for last Saturday will continue to be enforced for the training and qualifiers. A separate questionnaire must be filled out and signed for each person coming onto the property and temperatures will be taken. The number of trainers and grooms must be kept at the very minimum and social distancing must be observed.     Nick Salvi

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands, Tioga & Vernon Downs are announcing several date changes for the 2020 harness racing stakes schedule. The recent cancellation of the Sun Stakes at Pocono removed a few potential conflicts and left two prime Saturdays without any stakes which led to several of the following adjustments.   First off, Tioga Downs is announcing that the NYSS 3-year-old Colt Pace scheduled for Sunday, June 14 has been delayed one week to June 21 due to NY Agricultural Fund concerns over horses getting qualified in time for the race.   Also moving to June 21 are the Roll With Joe and the first leg of the Graduate Series for Pacers.   The first leg of the Graduate Series for trotters will remain on Sunday, June 14 at Tioga where originally scheduled.   Leg #2 of the Graduate Series trot has moved one day from Friday, June 26 to Saturday, June 27 and the second leg for pacers will now be raced on Saturday, July 4. Both are at The Meadowlands.   The Graduate Series has been reduced from four legs to two due to scheduling constraints and the Finals will remain on Saturday, July 11 as part of the Meadowlands Pace elimination card.   Also being raced on the July 4 card at The Meadowlands will be the Arthur Cutler Memorial trotting stake.   All of the 2-year-old stakes at The Meadowlands remain on the 2020 schedule but the order has been rearranged to avoid as much conflict as possible. The Kindergarten Series dropped one leg, down to four and the finals.   The entire revised 2020 Meadowlands stakes list is posted on the track website.   There are two important changes to the 2020 Empire Breeders Classic (EBC) for 3-year-old trotters. Originally scheduled with elimination races and a Final on Memorial Day, the EBC Trots will be raced as a single stake on Saturday, July 4.   The conditions state that "if more than 11 declare to start the Host Track may adopt any of the methods of dividing the race then current in the rules and regulations". With the season shortened and dates at a premium the elimination will be discarded and if more that 11 declare for the colt or filly EBC it will go in divisions with the purse divided.     Nick Salvi  

Columbus, OH –  Negotiations over a revision to the existing contract between Vernon Downs management and the Harness Horse Association of Central New York have reached an impasse as that track prepares for their announced June 10 opening. Some of the issues involved in the discussions to amend their existing agreement have included the number of racing days and schedule as well as purses for overnight, sire stakes and stakes races.  A disagreement on the level of stakes’ purses remains. Since the closing of New York State casinos in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the usual revenue stream to the horsemen’s purse accounts has been cut off.  And while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has granted permission to resume horse racing on June 1, there is still a delay in the casino openings and an expectation of limited capacity restrictions when they do. Despite that delay, Vernon Downs’ track and casino owner Jeff Gural has indicated that he is prepared to start the live meet in advance of opening the casino and will personally fund any shortfall to get them started racing to provide local horsemen, who have been struggling financially, with a place to race. According to Joe Faraldo, counsel for the HHACNY, the horsemen have negotiated in good faith regarding the need to reduce racing days and purses with the understanding that everyone will have to take a hit economically.  He indicated that Rick Papa, president of the local horsemen’s association, had signed and submitted the amendment to the existing contract based upon the product of the negotiations on Thursday evening (May 28). Aside from the NY Sire Stakes, only two stakes remain on the Vernon Downs schedule, The Empire Breeders Classic for state-bred 3-year-old trotters and the Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial, which showcases some of the top 3-year-old trotters in the sport. Gural indicated that failing to reach an acceptable compromise, Vernon Downs will not reopen for racing until the casino opens, which might be as late as mid-July. from the USTA Communications Department

Nichols, NY - Tioga Downs will hold harness racing qualifiers on Monday, June 1. The box will close at 10:00 AM on Sunday, May 31.   Tioga has a state required Reopening Protocol that horsemen must follow explicitly.   This questionnaire must be downloaded (must be a paper copy to turn in upon arrival - having it on your phone or other device is not acceptable) filled out completely and signed by all persons entering the grounds. Anyone entering the grounds will consent to a no touch temperature check that must not be above 100f to gain admittance.   Please enter electronically and be prepared to follow the guidelines as they are written when you get there.   Nick Salvi

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands is pleased to announce that Governor Murphy has granted harness racing the opportunity to resume in the state of New Jersey. Our thanks go out to the Governor for allowing all of us to get back to business.   Live racing will return to The Meadowlands next weekend Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6 at 7:15 PM with no live attendance. We ask that our fans and those involved with the horses as owners and in any capacity other than those essential to the function of racing be patient as we are hopeful that with careful management and Jersey remaining healthy we will be able to open the grandstand before too long.   Qualifiers will be held on Saturday morning. Pertinent information was released earlier today on important practices and protocols for racing. Further details including the draw for Saturday's qualifying races will be released as they become know later today.   With the green light to race we may now release the live racing calendar for the balance of 2020 which may be found on The Meadowlands website later this afternoon.   Also posted will be the revised stakes schedule which will remain virtually in tact. The stakes will begin with the New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS) for 3-year-olds on and the first leg of the Miss Versatility on Friday, June 19. The calendar may still be fluid as changes are made at other tracks regarding their intentions but any move would likely be only from Friday to Saturday.   While we are all pleased and grateful to be back racing, we must remain vigilant so far as following the protocols required of us all as long as they are in place.   Good luck and good racing to everyone.   Nick Salvi

Ronald Henry (Ronnie) Bencal passed peacefully on Monday, May 25 at 77 years of age after a long battle with respiratory illness. Born in New York City to Henry and Pauline Bencal, Ronnie began his career in harness racing when he went to work for noted horseman Jim Grundy after he was discharged form the Army in 1965. He then moved to the WR Haughton barn where he transitioned from caretaker to assistant trainer. In 1972 he joined his brother Bob as an assistant trainer at Roosevelt Raceway where they would enjoy many successful years racing there and Yonkers, The Meadowlands and eventually the Grand Circuit. During the 1980's Ronnie tried the civilian life for a few years, operating a Baskin Robbins franchise in Florida, but Bob eventually convinced him to return to the stable where he would remain until his retirement in 2012. Bob and Ronnie had a bond beyond their fraternal one, they were also great friends and equal partners in the training of the stable. They trusted each others judgment when it came to evaluating a horse and would bounce ideas off one another regarding how each horse in the stable could be brought to reach their potential. Ronnie was especially good with a horse that required patience. The Bencal brothers had a long relationship with Jeff and Paula Gural, training horses for them since the early 1970's led by 1990 Jugette winner Lady Genius. Ronnie thought the world of them and considered Paula to be a kindred spirit. Ronnie was an engaging and gregarious man. In his Florida retirement he'd spend his evenings at Bill Popfinger's Rattlesnake Jakes restaurant with a group of his friends, listening to the Grateful Dead and rooting for his beloved NY Yankees. He is survived by brother Bob and Bob's wife Monica, younger brother Ken and sisters Barbara and Susan, daughter Jennifer (Cosgrove), granddaughters Stella and Mareena Cosgrove and stepson William Fleming.   No arrangement details are available at this time. In lieu of flowers a donation to the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame or the Standardbred Retirement Foundation may be made in his memory.   Nick Salvi

Nichols, NY - Live harness racing will come to both Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs the beginning of June with qualifiers the first week and live racing the next.   Following the orders of Governor Cuomo, racing will get underway on the first day permitted with qualifying races held and Tioga on Monday, June 1 and again on Wednesday, June 3. At Vernon qualifiers will be on Tuesday, June 2 and Friday, June 5.   Live racing will kick off on Sunday, June 7 at Tioga and follow a Sunday - Monday schedule with a post time of 4:00 PM for all cards throughout the month of June with no live crowd and only remote wagering.   The first stakes to be raced at Tioga will be the NYSS 3YO Colt Pace, Roll With Joe Open Pace and a Graduate Series. All will remain on the originally scheduled date of Sunday, June 14.   Vernon will race on Wednesday, June 10 and Thursday, June 11 at 4:00 PM continuing that schedule and the no live attendance policy for the month as well. New York Sires Stakes will be raced at Vernon and we will post that schedule as soon as it becomes available.   With the large number of horses that we expect to enter qualifiers this week we ask that if your horse is currently qualified to race that you do not enter that horse to qualify.   Entries for the qualifiers will close at 10:00 AM the previous day. The qualifying overnight sheet will instruct horse people where each horse will be stabled/held until they race either in the paddock or designated area for ship ins.   Pertinent information on protocol the state will require to participate at both tracks will be made available on the track websites in the "Horsemen" section. Please read and become familiar with the details and come prepared to follow the conditions as written.   All persons entering the property at both tracks will be required to fill out a questionnaire and submit to a temperature check before entering the stable gate and if deemed a risk will be turned away. Once on the grounds you are required to wear face coverings at all times and gloves when practical, maintain social distancing, keep to a minimum number of people in the paddock and minimal contact with others while on the grounds.   Only those horses ages three and up that are stabled on the grounds (including local farms designated by management) at each track or eligible to the NYSS will be accepted to qualify and race at Tioga and Vernon for the time being. Two-year-olds will be accepted for week two of qualifiers.   Horses shipping in will be required to stable in the designated area and leave the grounds as soon as possible after qualifying or racing.   Please keep the warming up to a minimum and keep a distance from others when on the track both warming up and scoring.   Catch-Drivers will have no contact with the handlers of the horses and will wait in their car in a designated parking area with no contact among themselves.They will pick up their mounts on the way to the track. Trainers that drive their own horses and have been working in the stables may participate in the preparation of the horses.   It is strongly recommended that you sign up for Meadowlands, Tioga & Vernon mass text service as a lot of important information will be disseminated via text. To sign up, text the word "MEADOWLANDS" to the number 84700 on your mobile device. You may be required to respond "YES" if you receive a request for response.   We need everyone to adhere to protocol exactly as required by the state. It is imperative that we do everything they ask to the very best of our ability so that we may continue to race. Enduring this temporary inconvenience is what must be done to get back to what we need to do and eventual easing of these restrictions.   For all of the latest news on the resumption of racing, visit the USTA COVID-19 Resource Center.   Nick Salvi        

Nichols, NY - In light of the recent announcement that the New York regions containing both Tioga and Vernon Downs will be among the first to make a gradual return to business, Jeff Gural is working toward opening those tracks for live harness racing, hopefully by the end of May.   Negotiations with the Horsemen's organizations regarding details on just how to accomplish that in a fashion that would give racing the best chance to be conducted safely are underway.   "Although it's not in my best business interests to open for racing before the casinos get back going as originally planned, being a horseman I sympathize with the guys that race with us and the situation they have found themselves in through no fault of their own," said Jeff Gural, owner/operator of Tioga and Vernon Downs.   "Another key issue is the status of the NY Sires Stakes (NYSS) program. There are a lot of unknowns about the other tracks, when they will be able to open and what the landscape will look like when they do. I understand that Buffalo has chosen not to host NYSS races, so if we're able to get open we'll include that leg with those raced at Tioga and Vernon and get the program started."   "The picture should become much clearer over the next few days. We are busy working out the details of what will be expected of us to race and just how we'll get that done. Horsemen will need to be involved and diligent in policing themselves because we can not afford a single mistake."   Further details will be announced as they become known.   Nick Salvi        

  East Rutherford, NJ - Horsemen should be aware of the following details as the nomination deadline for the 2020 Grand Circuit stakes at The Meadowlands draws near.   Payments will be accepted with a February 18 postmark as per USTA guidelines, what with the 15th falling on a Saturday and Monday the 17th a holiday.   The conditions for top money winning stakes format has been revised with the top eleven (11) money winners for 2019-2020 (per USTA conversion) accepted and all Meadowlands administered/sponsored stakes raced at the distance of one mile.   It is important to note that The Meadowlands conditions contain specific language regarding eligibility to participate in Meadowlands administered stakes. As you consider nominating your horses, be aware of these two articles: Disputes: All owners, trainers and drivers of horses nominated to this event must be accepted to participate at the Host Track or the nomination/entry may be denied without refund of previous payments. Any change of trainers made fewer than 30 days or within four starts of the date of this race will be reviewed by the sponsor and if not accepted, may result in refusal of entry. Sponsors reserve the right to amend conditions as deemed necessary without liability. Rules: A minimum of seven (7) separate interests may be required in any event or the event may be canceled. All starters are subject to the detention policy of the Host Track. The rules of the Host Track and its state Racing Commission along with the USTA shall govern unless otherwise specified in these conditions. These races are subject to the Stallion Restriction Condition (SRC); see Meadowlands website for details. Any horse nominated to any Meadowlands stakes/event must be in the care of an approved trainer by April 15, 2020 for any stake/event raced during the month of May and by May 15 for all other 2020 stakes/events. In addition, any owner who participates in a Meadowlands Stake or Early Closing event (with added money greater than $25,000) with a trainer who has an outstanding Class 1, Class 2 or TC02 positive test having occurred on or after January 1, 2019 and under appeal in any jurisdiction will be declared ineligible to participate in any Meadowlands Stake or Early Closing event for 12 months following the conviction if such trainer is subsequently found guilty relating to the Class 1, Class 2 or TC02 positive test. Nominator also agrees that any horse paid into any Meadowlands stake/event may be required to be stabled for up to 14 days at an approved facility within a 150 mile radius of The Meadowlands or the Tioga or Vernon Downs stable area or an approved facility in a state that agrees to cooperate in an out of competition testing protocol by the date set by The Meadowlands for that stake/event for the purpose of out of competition testing. Failure to comply with these conditions may result in any agreement created by the acceptance of any stakes payment to be declared void at the discretion of The Meadowlands rendering the horse(s) in question ineligible to race in those stakes/events with no liability to The Meadowlands and no assurance of a refund of payments previously made to the stake/event in question. A nomination to these events is an agreement to the above terms and conditions. Questions regarding the status of any potential nominator or trainer will be answered by the Racing Department at (201) 842-5130.   All pertinent information on The Meadowlands $15 million stakes program including schedules and payments is available on the web.   New Jersey Sires Stakes information may be found here.   SBOANJ stakes information may be found here.   Hambletonian Society administered stakes information may be found here.   by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands    

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands is releasing pertinent information on its 2020 harness racing stakes which will offer total purses in the neighborhood of $14 million. The marquee Grand Circuit stakes for older horses will have an important change in the racing conditions. The number of top money winning horses in 2019-2020 accepted for those events will decrease from twelve to eleven and the distance will be kept to one mile regardless of the number of starters. The races affected by this change are the Arthur Cutler, John Cashman and Dr. John Steele Memorials on the trot and the WR Haughton and Sam McKee Memorial FFA paces, Golden Girls and Lady Liberty FFA mare paces and Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old filly pacers. The Kindergarten Classic Series for freshman trotters and pacers will also race five legs for an increased purse of $20,000 each, all at The Meadowlands starting in July with the $250,000e finals set for September 18. The Reynolds and Tompkins-Geers Grand Circuit stakes for 2-year-olds have been moved from Tioga Downs to The Meadowlands in 2020. The dates for the freshman New Jersey Sires Stakes have been moved to later in the summer with the finals set for August 21.   The Tompkins-Geers pacing stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts and fillies will also be raced at The Meadowlands and have been placed to provide a start between the Meadowlands Pace and Cane Pace.   The popular Miss Versatility series for older mare trotters will offer five $40,000 legs this season. The stakes series will launch at Woodbine Mohawk Park in late May then shift to The Meadowlands for the other four legs from July through September. The $100,000e finals will again be on Jug Day at the Delaware, Ohio County Fair. The Meadowlands Standardbred Championship Meet will close on September 19 due to the Fall Thoroughbred Meet taking over use of the main track from October 2 through November 21. The Standardbreds will return on November 27 with the TVG Championships and Freshman Fall Final Four slated for Saturday, November 28 on a night boasting $3 million in purses. All staking information is available on the Meadowlands website. Please call the Racing Office at (201) 842-5130 with questions. by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands 2019 handle was a mixed bag. The amount bet on Meadowlands harness racing was up significantly while the wagering on imported signals at the facility continued to decline. The amount wagered on The Meadowlands exported signal swelled to $216,983,907 over 90 dates for an average of $2.4 million, a 26% increase over the 2018 total of $172,445,226 (86 dates / average $2 million) resulting in a revenue gain of slightly less than $2 million year over year. Per race handle was up 6% at $186,573 vs $175,071.  The 2019 handle on Meadowlands live races bet in the building was at $17,554,967 (average $195,055), a 7% increase over the 2018 figure. It is clear that the catalyst was increased purses, spurred by a $6 million supplement endowed to The Meadowlands by New Jersey legislators, resulting in more horses to race and in turn more races and fuller fields. The number of races (1163 / 12.9 per card) increased by 15%, up 178 over 2018 (985 / 11.5). The number of horses that raced at The Meadowlands in 2019 was 10,330 (up nearly 20% over 2018) for an average field size of 8.88 vs 2018 totals of 8,307 horses or 8.43 per race. However, the wagering on imported signals continues to trend downward. The 2019 total bet on imports of $127,579,985 was 9% lower than 2018 over a like number of dates. Unfortunately, that 9% dip offset the gains made on the Meadowlands live races. The import decline is largely as a result of bettor convenience. Each passing year, a larger percentage of the simulcast wagering is drawn to the various Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) platforms and other remote options rather than traveling to The Meadowlands to bet on the races. The Meadowlands has been granted 92 race dates for 2020 featuring nearly $14 million in stakes purses. This season will present differently with live racing continuing through September 19 then dark until the Fall/Winter meet begins on November 27.  2020 is off to a promising beginning with the first $3 million handle card already in the books. It is our hope that the trend on live will continue to grow.  by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands is announcing important details on the 2-year-old harness racing stakes that the track will host in 2020 with significant changes to both the Kindergarten Series and the Fall Freshman Final Four. The big Kindergarten news is the doubling of the purse for all legs from $10,000 to $20,000. The entry fee for the legs will remain at $250. The Kindergarten will also undergo a schedule change in 2020 with all five legs at The Meadowlands beginning on July 10 with the rich finals on Friday, September 18. The "Fall Freshman Final Four" is comprised of the Valley Victory and Goldsmith Maid for trotting freshman and the Governor's Cup and Three Diamonds for 2-year-old pacers. Those four stakes offer great value to nominators, boasting total purses of nearly $2 million for 2020. The stakes immediate future came in doubt with the prospect of no Standardbred Fall meet at The Meadowlands in 2020 due to Monmouth Park exercising it's legislated right to convert and race on the main track from October 2 through December 5. Fortunately, an agreement was reached to end the Thoroughbred meet on November 21 allowing the Standardbred meet to begin the next weekend. This change will provide a date for both the "Final Four" stakes and TVG Championship of Saturday, November 28. The late date will necessitate a change from the previous elimination and final format to racing the top eleven money winners with the possibility of a consolation if the number of entries is sufficient. Upon review, the past few seasons have seen a scarcity of elimination races. In 2019 only the Three Diamonds required a single elimination while the other three all went straight to the finals. The Meadowlands has shaped the 2020 schedule to provide a 2-year-old stake over the mile track every week beginning July 3. With this in mind, both the Tompkins-Geers and Reynolds 2-year-old Grand Circuit stakes have been moved to The Meadowlands from Tioga for 2020. The Kindergartens will fill in as needed and eventually wrap things up with the September 18 finals. The freshman New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS) legs will be raced on July 21 and August 14 with the finals on August 21. This placement will afford those NJSS participants that have dual eligibility in the Kentucky Sires Stakes (KYSS) that don't make the NJSS final the opportunity to race in two of the three KYSS legs. Even those that do qualify for the NJSS final can still race in the last KYSS leg on September 7. It is an exciting prospect for those owners and trainers who invested in the future at the 2019 yearling sales. Schedules and staking information will be available on The Meadowlands website shortly. by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands is proud to announce its 2020 stakes schedule which will total approximately $14 million over the course of the 92 program meet.   The Meadowlands Standardbred meet will have a different look in 2020 due to Monmouth Park exercising their legislated right to race Thoroughbreds on the main track from October 2 through November 21, thus eliminating the possibility for the customary Fall harness meet.   Live Harness Racing will begin January 2 and race primarily on Fridays and Saturdays with an occasional Thursday thrown in through September 19; then pick back up on November 27 racing three days per week through year's end.   Hambletonian Day will once again headline the Championship Meet with more than $3 million in stakes purses offered on Saturday, August 8. The $1 million Hambletonian will return to the elimination format with the finest 3-year-old trotters competing for ten final berths on August 1 to return for Harness Racing's most sought after prize the next week.   The Hambletonian Oaks will follow the same course and lead the customary cast of supporting stakes that include the $300,000 Cashman FFA trot, $225,000 McKee FFA pace, $175,000 Steele FFA mare trot, $200,000 Lady Liberty FFA mare pace and the Haughton & Doherty Memorial stakes for freshman colt and filly trotters.   The $700,000e Meadowlands Pace will lead a parade of top stakes on Pace night Saturday, July 18 the includes the $400,000 Hambletonian Maturity, $400,000 WR Haughton FFA and $200,000 Golden Girls for pacing mares.   The TVG Championship Stakes and Fall Freshman Final Four are slated to open the winter meet on Saturday, November 28 headlining a $3 million card.   The longer than usual summer meet presents an opportunity to delay the start of the New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS) for 2-year-olds to mid-July with the finals on August 21. The later start to the NJSS races offer three more weeks to prepare for the enriched NJ program, a welcome benefit to both the horses and the horsemen that manage them. Those dates have recently been adjusted to race the finals two weeks earlier than originally planned in an effort to accommodate those horses that qualify to race in the Kentucky dual-eligibility program.   While on the topic of 2-year-olds, The Meadowlands schedule provides a racing opportunity for the freshman crop every week from July 3 through September 18. The Tompkins-Geers and Reynolds stakes, previously raced at Tioga Downs, have been brought to The Meadowlands with the 2-year-old divisions of those stakes blended in with the Kindergarten and NJSS to reach that goal.   The 3-year-old Tompkins-Geers trotting and pacing divisions and Reynolds trotting stakes are all at The Meadowlands and have been placed where they best provide preps for some of our major stakes.   The Graduate Series returns in the customary time frame to provide transitional races for 4-year-old pacers and trotters before they must face the top older stakes horses. The $250,000 finals will again be a part of the Meadowlands Pace elimination night card on July 11.   The Miss Versatility will offer five legs to trotting mares beginning on May 28 at Woodbine Mohawk Park then race at The Meadowlands four times before the $100,000 finals at The Little Brown Jug.   All stakes information will be available on The Meadowlands website in early January.   by Nick Salvi, for The Meadowlands        

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