A few high-profile trotters who weren't required to race in Breeders Crown eliminations used the Saturday morning qualifiers as a prep for next week's finals. The morning was sunny, though crisp with temperatures in the mid 30's and the horses facing a fairly significant headwind in the homestretch. Trotters opened the card, so Jimmy Takter won. He steered Ferragamo, a two-year-old facing some three-year-olds and swept by in the stretch to win in 1:57.2. Father Patrick came out for race two with trainer Takter driving for the first time all season. He tracked Bluto through fair fractions and pulled pocket past the 1:25.2 three quarters, closing out the 1:54- mile with a 28.3 final quarter. It took some Takter encouragement in the stretch to hold off Don Dorado and Team Six who were both gaining near the wire. Vanity Matters went well this morning, leading all the way for Dave Miller in 1:57- with a 28.3 final panel. She held Cantabs Fortune at bay, moving away in deep stretch under her own power as both fillies look forward to next week's three-year-old filly Breeders Crown trot final. Commander Crowe took a spin around the big track in anticipation of his third Crown appearance with Trond Smedshammer baby sulky-sitting the beautiful chestnut champion for his French connections. He cut the mile through even numbers ending the 1:54.1 mile in 29 flat while using Lasix for the first time. Creatine, also getting some work in toward next week's championship, broke before the start but went well after getting that out of his system. Some classy older pacers competed in the fifth, with millionaire veteran Real Nice holding sway for John Campbell over the returning Lonewolf Currier and I Am Bonasera in 1:55.1 / 27.4. They all looked sharp and ready for action. Breeders Crown eliminations resume this evening at The Meadowlands with post time for the first race set for 7:15. Find all the info you'll ever need, including charts and replays for this morning's races by visiting The Meadowlands website. by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands
The Meadowlands will open the 2014 fall meet this coming weekend with harness racing's championship series the $5.4 million Breeders Crown. Entries for Friday, November 14 and Saturday, November 15 will be accepted by the Racing Office at 877-782-2537 until the box closes at 9:00am tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. A double-draw for both cards will be executed after the box close. Supporting races have been designed to complement the Breeders Crown, along with a slate of overnight races. The condition sheet and letter classification for overnight horses are available here. It is imperative that trainers submit a new racing application for the fall meet, any application submitted previously is now void. Also, your stable roster will allow the Racing Office to award a letter to each horse for classification purposes. It is recommended that horsemen subscribe to The Meadowlands text service for all racing announcements including classes that need more entries to fill, class changes, weather related issues and important travel and traffic information. You may subscribe by following this link or texting "meadowlands" to 84700 on you phone. There no charge for this service other than carrier rates. by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands
This is a reminder that the New Jersey Racing Commission's new medication rules went into effect on November 3rd. Most notably, the recommended withdrawal time for Clenbuterol in New Jersey will increase to 14 days. All horsemen who are planning to race at The Meadowlands beginning Friday November 14th, including The Breeders Crown Eliminations and Finals, should take note of these new Racing Commission rules. Additionally, there are now 26 medications categorized as Controlled Therapeutic Medication. Information relating to these 26 medications can be found within the ARCI Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule at www.acri.com/ . The initial announcement of these new medication rules can be found at http://sboanj.com/index.asp?Key=3880. by Darin Zoccali, for the Meadowlands Big action in Meadowlands qualifiers Racing returned to The Meadowlands in the form of a dozen qualifying races on the morning of Friday, November 7. The races were contested on a fast track under overcast skies with a fairly stiff breeze facing them in the home stretch and temperatures in the low 50’s. Race one fielded freshman trotters and (does this sound familiar at all) Jimmy Takter ran one-two with siblings to a pair of his more successful stars, driving Ferragamo (full brother to Guccio) to a head win over Father Parick’s little brother, Whom Shall I Fear (Yannick Gingras) in 1:58.4. Valley Victory final winner Pinkman was absolutely vicious this morning with a start to finish romp in 1:55.1 with Gingras aboard for Takter. He sailed through the wind in 28.2 without being asked to finish the mile, widening to a six or seven length decision over the good filly Livininthefastlane who finished resolutely under minimal urging from Tim Tetrick. Three year old fillies were next up on the menu and NYSS champ Market Rally showed that she’s not just a small track girl, “rallying” wide into the breeze from well back to get up over Harley Momma (Jim Raymer) and Miss Liv (Andy Miller) in 1:56.1/29.3. Matt Kakaley drove for the Ron Burke stable in this one. Odds On Amethyst had a good morning, leading all the way for Yannick while dominating a group of sophomore square-gaiters in 1:54.3. Loose on the lead, as he prefers, the Muscle Hill gelding sprinted a good 28 flat final panel as he moved away from Opulent Yankee (A. Miller) and Journey (Dan Dube). Takter trains. After a training break, with less of a breeze now, Master Of Law got in a good prep in with Takter. The imposing looking four-year-old sat in until the half, moved to the lead before the final turn and held Your So Vain at bay in 1:56-/27.4 willingly. Your So Vain was ok in his first public appearance since the Cashman on Hambo Day and held second, looking like he needed the work for Ake Svanstedt. Creatine looked strong this morning in his first race with new designated driver Ron Pierce. He sat a loose pocket behind the front-loving Sevruga through honest fractions, emerged from the pocket and went by willingly in 1:54.3/29.1. Sevruga looked sound and fit in his return to his favorite track and stable, racing again out of the Julie Miller barn today, he held up well. Wishing Stone (Kakaley) was a comfortable third. Pacers were next and Hall Of Terror held off the charge of four rival freshmen in 1:53.2/27.4 for Andy Miller in this one. Franzo, ASAP Hanover and Soto were all rallying in the stretch, to no avail. A mere quartet of two-year-old filly pacers took the track for the ninth and Happy Becky was the winner with Dave Miller aboard in 1:54.2 over pacesetter Zip Code Envy. Sayitall BB cut the mile in the tenth and held off the late bid of packet sitter Sandbetweenurtoes in 1:53-/28-. The winner has been lightly raced this season and with the possibility of being supplemented to the Breeders Crown just might have a “say” in the outcome. Kakaley drove for Burke Racing. Bettor Believe It was a powerful winner of race eleven for Andy Miller, holding off a determined bid by the good Parnu Hanover after leading all the way in 1:52.4/27.3. He should relish a shot at the NW 3 class when the meet opens next week. The venerable Golden Receiver toured the oval in 1:52.4 to close out the day’s events. He was racing out of the Julie Miller barn for the first time and Andy returned to the sulky, where he’s been for several of the old horse’s greatest moments. Live racing at The Meadowlands begins next Friday, November 14 with the return of harness racing’s championship series, the Breeders Crown. The eliminations are set for opening weekend and the $5.3 million finals on November 21 & 22. Visit www.playmeadowlands.com for charts and video replays of today’s qualifiers, information on the upcoming live race meet and seating and dining options for the Breeders Crown. by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands
The fifth and last leg of the Kindergarten Classic series for freshman trotters will be raced on Friday, October 17 at Vernon Downs. Declarations must be made by 9:00am on Tuesday, October 14. You may reach the Racing Office by calling 315-829-6825 and all pertinent info, including current point standings, is available on the Vernon Downs website. by Nick Salvi, for Vernon Downs
This past summer the New Meadowlands hosted the Manzo family, Famously of the Bravo TV series "The Real Housewives of New Jersey", on which wife/mom Caroline has starred before spinning off their own reality show titled "Manzo'd With Children" for a few nights at the races. An episode of "Manzo'd With Children" was filmed in part at the track showcasing the new grandstand, Victory Sports Bar, Victory Terrace and the Backyard outdoor park. Also included in the broadcast, driver Marcus Miller took family matriarch Caroline Manzo for a spin around the oval behind a horse. The episode titled, "Off To The Races", will be broadcast tonight on Bravo TV at 9:00pm on the east coast. Follow this link for more info and to locate the channel in your area. Ep 3: Off to the Races Chris and Albie attempt to open a lavish new restaurant at the Meadowlands Race Track but quickly learn the space isn't big enough to accommodate their vision. by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands
Vernon, NY - Vernon Downs will conduct a double draw with the entry box closing at 9:00am on the morning of Tuesday, August 26 for the Friday (Zweig Memorial, Crawford Farms open trot, 2014 Drivers' Championship) & Saturday (NYSS 2YO Colt Pace) race cards. The condition sheet will be available on Saturday afternoon. Horsemen should contact the race office at (315) 829-6825 or to firstname.lastname@example.org for hotel reservations for next weekend. Rooms are limited on Saturday due to a wedding and a VIP Event in the casino, so reservations will be on a first come, first served basis. From Nick Salvi, for Vernon Downs
East Rutherford, NJ - The $257,700 United States Pacing Championship (USPC) will provide the stage for nine of the finest in the aged pacing division to do battle on Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands. A testament to the quality of the group is the fact that the combined career earnings of these nine pacers is in excess of $20 million. Among the chief contenders in Saturday's race is Captaintreacherous who dominated his division and was subsequently named "Pacer of the Year" as a freshman and sophomore, a distinction he shares with only the immortal Niatross. Faced this season at age four with graduation into the open ranks to battle the best of the older set was expected to be a daunting task and the competition has been fierce. Captaintreacherous was born to be a star with the pedigree and presence to demand $250,000 at the 2011 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. He came from the greatly anticipated first crop of champion racehorse Somebeachsomewhere and boasts a very accomplished maternal line. White Birch Farm bred and raised the colt and when Myron Bell and Tony Alagna saw him during their annual farm canvass they agreed he was priority one. The winning bid was made by Bell on behalf of a partnership that included George Segal's Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco and Myron and Stephanie Bell's Riverview Farm. White Birch proprietor Michael Parisi was offered a stake and remained a partner on the horse as well. They would choose the nom de course Captaintreacherous Racing for this endeavor. Myron Bell has been the racing manager for George Segal's Brittany Farms for more than thirty years. Throughout their relationship many of the sport's stars both on the track and in the breeding shed have campaigned under the Brittany banner. Over the past decade, Myron has managed a number of partnerships that include several high-profile Standardbred owners and breeders with remarkable results. Captaintreacherous represents the culmination of a lifetime spent breeding, buying and racing the best. "My groups, such as Captaintreacherous Racing, are looking for that top horse that we can race successfully at the highest level and then hopefully have a future in the breeding shed. I could not do any of this without their confidence and support," said Bell. "We bought just one colt from Somebeachsomewhere's first crop and our aim was to buy the best one. "Captaintreacherous was the number one colt from that crop, in our opinion. He showed beautifully and offered the best pedigree that I'd seen for years. He had all of the attributes that we seek; conformation, attitude, ability...and he had no weaknesses." Things began well for Captaintreacherous. He seared through his two-year-old campaign with Tim Tetrick joining the team as his regular driver, listing the Wilson and Metro among eight wins in ten starts for over $900,000 and his first "Pacer of the Year" title. Brought back at three with great expectations, "The Captain" exceeded even those lofty ambitions and ran the table with the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace and Breeders Crown among his thirteen triumphs and $2 million in seasonal earnings. Along the way Captaintreacherous captured the hearts of racing fans with his grit and determination, often appearing on the brink of defeat only to battle back and get to the wire first. His talent and will; coupled with his breeding and imposing presence, drew the attention of several suitors for his services as a stallion. Ultimately it would be industry leader Hanover Shoe Farms whose participation in a syndication agreement led to a decision to stand Captaintreacherous at their Pennsylvania nursery when he goes to stud in 2015. "It is absolutely imperative that you have a strong syndicate when the horse goes to stud," Bell opined. "You need breeders with the right mares to want the horse to succeed and support him with those mares. If they are shareholders they are enhancing their own interests as well as that of the horse. After the first two seasons in the shed, when a new star retires to stud, if you don't have that support, interest wanes and you have a few down years even if the horse hits. "We sold a few shares of the horse to serious breeders after his freshman season to establish value. There was understandably great interest in "Captain" last year and by Lexington we had a few serious offers to stand him. Hanover bought a significant interest in him and they have the type of mares we seek to give him a chance to be his best. We will syndicate him further at the end of this racing season and he will go to stud at Hanover." For his career, Captaintreacherous has won 22 of 31 starts and over $3.1 million, averaging a remarkable $100,000 per start. He won the Meadowlands Maturity his first race this season, but is winless in his last four starts. In Saturday's USPC as "The Captain" looks to move forward off a wicked tune-up in last week's prep, he finds himself starting from post eight, just outside Sweet Lou who has won seven straight and been the star of this division thus far in 2014. "We had no illusions that he was going to go through this season against these types of horses without getting beat. I think he has raced well in each of his starts this year and was fantastic last week, pacing his last half in :52 flat. Sweet Lou has been very good, but I don't fear him. My feeling is that "Captain" is improving in each race and will continue to improve. He needs to get lucky at the draw and you always need racing luck, that's a given. "Tony Alagna and Tim Tetrick have done a marvelous job racing Captaintreacherous. To campaign a horse at that level over three seasons, keep him fit, healthy and sound is a testament to Tony and his crew. Tim handles the pressure that comes with the job beautifully and deserves tremendous credit for his body of work driving "Captain". It truly "takes a village" to campaign a horse like this and I really feel that we have yet to see his best. "One of the most gratifying elements of this ride has been the response to Captaintreacherous by the harness community and particularly the racing fans," Myron said in closing. "He has given the ownership group many thrills and the enthusiasm shown by his fans is right at the top of that list." The complete field: UNITED STATES PACING CHAMPIONSHIP - $257,700 1. GOLDEN RECEIVER CoCallahan JaHuff 2. STATE TREASURER DaMiller IaMoore 3. THINKING OUT LOUD JCampbell RoMcintosh 4. SUNFIRE BLUE CHIP ScZeron JiTakter 5. FOILED AGAIN YaGingras RoBurke 6. BETTOR'S EDGE MaKakaley RoBurke 7. SWEET LOU RoPierce RoBurke 8. CAPTAINTREACHEROUS TiTetrick ToAlagna 9. CLEAR VISION BrAMiller RoBurke The US Pacing Championship is race five on Saturday's All-Star Hambletonian card and clearly one of the most anticipated races of the day. The fifteen-race program begins at noon, gates open at 10:00am with the annual Hambo hat giveaway. The Hambletonian may be viewed on CBS Sports Network from 4:00 to 5:30pm. Find more information including access to a free Hambo Day program by visiting The Meadowlands website. by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands
Please be advised that there will be Jay-Z / Beyonce concerts in Met Life stadium on both Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12 beginning at 8PM. The crowd each night is estimated to be in the 50,000 range and traffic will be very heavy. Stadium parking planners strongly suggest that you get to the track before 5pm. It is also advised that you avoid driving through the parking lot when entering from the turnpike and insted use Rt 120/Patterson Plank road and enter via the East Tunnel gate. This route may be used with horse transportation vehicles as well, following the road behind the new grandstand around to the paddock. It's going to be very hot this week in New Jersey so plan your trip accordingly. Post time on Friday is the regular 7:15pm while Saturday has a special early post time 6:30pm. by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands
Goshen, NY -- Harness racing enthusiasts have been envisioning sub-1:50 trotting miles for a long time. Prognosticators are somewhat relieved that Sebastian K has finally eclipsed the previously held record by trotting in 1:49 last Saturday night over Pocono Downs' three-turn, five-eighths-mile track. Immediately following this "monsters" 1:50.1 US debut on May 10, many suggested it was not a question of "if" the Swedish-bred superhorse would break the lofty barrier, but a matter of "when." No one, other than the competition, has been disappointed as Ãke Svanstedt has managed the horse perfectly since crossing the pond. With the help of Bernie Noren and staff, they look to make the Svanstedt Stable a household name in the states, as it is in their native Sweden. Some have also suggested that the previous plateau-breaking record of 1:49.3 set at Colonial Downs should have an asterisk, as the Virginia oval is a one-turn track. Standardbreds racing over that 1¼-mile track, start from a chute on the backstretch and travel an entire half mile before they enter a turn. The fact that Colonial is the only pari-mutuel track in the United States that still has a hub rail is another anomaly. Also, Colonial's 11/4 mile track is second only to Belmont in length, which is very telling about the propensity for horses to make speed over this oval. Nonetheless, for Harness Racing aficionados, Pocono Downs is still light years ahead. The last two Saturday nights provided the two fastest race cards in the history of the Standardbred. Although all eyes were on Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley for Sun Stakes Saturday and the nearly $2.3 million in purses, 18 different US tracks had racing on Friday and Saturday nights. With the Friday night debut of 2-year-olds in New Jersey Sire Stakes competition at the Meadowlands, I found myself surrounded by fans on the apron. However, not all of them had their eyes fixed upon the racetrack. $7,500 in total prize money was plenty of incentive to attract a couple dozen beautiful women to the Meadowlands for the annual Ms. Hot to Trot contest. Of course, to go along with all those perfectly proportioned gals in string bikinis was several hundred very inquisitive men of all shapes and sizes. Several M1 staffers got the call to perform the duty of judging these bevvy of babes, including Nick Salvi who may have been the most experienced of the panelists. Justin Horowitz, AKA M.C. J-Ho, provided the ladies with thought-provoking questions to ensure that the contestants had beautiful minds to go along with their ample tangible assets. Even Yonkers Raceway's "The Manager" made a special appearance. More than likely it was to cheer for Brian Sears in the early sire stakes events. Taking the subway from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to Port Authority, and then a bus to the Big M, he arrived early and was doing his iconic dance before each race. His plan was to catch the Route 120 bus after the third and be back to Yonkers by the eighth. Now that is dedication! In between sessions of judging hotties, some great harness racing took place, with the babies having graduated from breakfast to supper time. Eddie Hart's Cam's Card Shark colt, Dealt A Winner, is now the fastest 2-year-old pacer in the country following a 1:52.4 romp with David Miller at the controls. The Jeffrey Snyner-owned, Hanover-bred lad was a $35,000 Harrisburg yearling purchase who looks every bit the bargain at this stage. Wishing Stone, the double-duty sire/racehorse removed any doubt that his particular style of breeding and breezing suits him. Going off at 10-1, the betting public was clearly not anticipating this kind of opening-night performance as the 7-year-old son of Conway Hall cruised wire-to-wire from post 10. Yannick Gingras drove the $2.23 million earner like he was the best in a 1:52.4 rout for the powerful Ron Burke stable. And when it comes to vintage horse power, Burke Racing may have cornered the market! Sweet Lou, Bettor's Edge and Foiled Again finished 1-2-3 in the $500,000 Ben Franklin at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday night. 5-year-old Sweet Lou's 1:47f performance was the fastest pacing mile ever on a 5/8-mile track and only a fifth off the mile-track mark. This was the most exciting horse race of the night, as Sweet Lou appeared headed by stable mate Bettor's Edge down the stretch. Dead game, he fought back like a champion and regained the lead in a mere two steps before the wire. Captaintreacherous finished fifth in that event. Leaving from post 8 he had a rough voyage, parked nearly every step of the way and still paced in 1:47.3. Overall, the Sun Stakes card produced 5 world records and 11 horses set new lifetime marks. Needless to say, the awesome display of horsepower in a span of a just few hours was breathtaking. A horse that we are sure to hear a lot more about is the McArdle colt, McWicked. Trained by Casie Coleman and driven by David Miller, he set a new world mark for 3YO pacers in 1:47.3f and looks to start the "Jug three-peat" dialog. Max J. Hempt and his wife Amy were on hand to present the Max C. Hempt trophy to the winning connections. A product of the "Keystone" legacy, Max C. runs the family's PA state-wide construction business, is an aspiring pilot, and was recently elected to the Vice President's post of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. One would be hard-pressed to meet nicer people in all of racing. Although winning the Beal proclaimed Father Patrick as the evening's shining star of the Hambo hopefuls, it seems that his shed row disciples will be in close proximity. Perhaps Jimmy Takter has cornered the market on 3YO trotting colts this year as Trixton and Nuncio (who was second) both seem equally capable of sipping from the Hambletonian challis. Despite el Padre' lowering his seasonal mark by a full two and half seconds to 1:50.2f, it appears that the 'anointed one' has been blessed with enough speed to break the 1:50 barrier at three! Ready to take on Godzilla himself, Sebastian K had the crowd buzzing all night following his track crushing performance. Now the talk is how fast he may trot on a hot Hambo day at The Meadowlands. Regardless of what transpires in racing between now and then, it will most likely captivate the trotting conversation until the first Saturday in August. Speaking of New Jersey, Sunday's trek down the NE ext. of the PA pike brought this scribe to Fair Winds Farm in Cream Ridge for an open house featuring veterinary clinic tours with Dr. Patti Hogan, and another Svanstedt stable favorite, White Bliss. The rare 'white colt' returned to his place of foaling to dash around his paddock, much to the delight of onlookers young and old. It was a fun afternoon under clear blue skies that made the industry proud. The festivities began with several local leaders addressing the crowd about their intentions to promote and garner support for New Jersey agriculture and the horse business. Assemblyman Ron Dancer has worked tirelessly for years to ensure that Trenton pays attention to harness racing. He plans on putting forth a resolution to bolster agricultural education in the Garden State through the Future Farmers of America. Former mayor of Millstone Township, Nancy Grgelja, owned no horses when she originally took the oath of office. Subsequently she caught the bug, and ten years later she has had 10 Standardbreds, several of which are still racing. Lillian Burry, whose resume reads like a lady who never stops moving, is now the director of the Monmouth County Freeholders. Of course the always active Dr. Karen Malinowski of the Rutgers Equine Science Center helped coordinate the day's events, along with the gracious hosting of Mark Mullen. With construction on the NJ Turnpike around exit 8, and Jersey shore traffic reaching epic proportions, it was my intention to complete the final leg of my 539 mile journey and make it back to the Catskills before nightfall. by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com
For the first time, the Meadowlands Pace will require a yearling payment of $50 be made to nominate the pacing foals of 2013 to the 2016 race. This payment is due (postmarked by) May 16. Questions should be directed to Nick Salvi at 607-972-5500. A form may be downloaded here. From the Meadowlands Race Office
DERBY DAY – On the first Saturday in May, the entire country cares about horse racing. No matter who you are or where you live, it is difficult to escape the anticipation and excitement leading up to the Run for the Roses. Traffic was already backed up to the railroad overpass on Racetrack Road by 10 a.m., waiting to get into the New Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment. By the time I arrived in the paddock for the morning qualifiers, the first and second races had already been contested, as an earlier start was planned to accommodate the anticipated crowd. My first stop was to see the older trotters in race 7. Shelly Grieco, caretaker for Market Share was less anxious this week as Team Toscano had less than half of the eleven horses they had in-to-go last week. Markie was his protective self, pinning his ears if I got too close to Shelly. Otherwise, he was content to nibble on his dog chain, which is hooked with a carabiner and dangling from the left cross chain snap. Two stalls down was Dan Patch Horse of the Year, Bee A Magician, who was making her 2014 debut sans the trotting hopples. She looked as alert and ready as could be, and her caretaker Stephanie Petherick, was happy to pose for the obligatory photo. I thought that if this was not a qualifier the paparazzi would be everywhere! As I dashed over to the track apron, fans and players were milling around. They picked their spots while watching live early races from Churchill Downs on the infield teletron. Richard Gutnick, co-owner of Market Share was taking in all the action from his usual Saturday morning perch in the grandstand. At that stage, plans for the Elitloppet had not been finalized, citing several pros and cons. Rumor has it that a decision will be made on Tuesday. The USTA’s Ken Weingartner and DRF’s Derick Giwner were in their respective positions, ready to capture all the highlights. M1 CEO Jason Settlemoir stopped by to say hello with Marianne Rotella the assistant general manager. Marianne has been at The Meadowlands as long as I can remember, most recently running Guest Services. She is a great lady who is right at home managing big events. The main attraction was the 4-year-old and older trot, which was all Market Share. Not only did he draw off by over eight lengths, winning in 1:52.4, he trotted his last half all alone in :54.4. For the “Queen Bee” this appeared more like an official Derby Day workout. Bee settled in fourth and was allowed to trot home at will, timed in 1:56. She looked great and went clean and comfortable without the hopples. Following that race I went up to the Super Box to see Nick Salvi. I was impressed by the “super” view of the races from that vantage point. We discussed several social media initiatives while keeping an eye on the last few races. Hanover’s Murray Brown brought a bag of NY bagels over from Manhattan while several top owners discussed the sights and sounds of the day. When the races were over, security shuffled us out to make room for a Derby party. Myron Bell invited me to lunch after qualifiers. I had to respectfully decline as I had already made plans. Nick reminded me that they ‘do lunch’ every Saturday so I was could catch them next time. I most certainly will! Back on the apron, I could not help but notice what an AMAZING TRANSFORMATION occurred in the “Back Yard,” the New Meadowlands equivalent to the old Paddock Park. Although not complete yet, it had come a long way from the disassembled and dusty construction site it looked like last week. On my self-guided tour children were playing on the freshly rolled sod, and workers were inflating kid-friendly bounce houses. While peeking inside the new Back Yard Teller stand I ran into John “Red” Fazekas. He is also a “lifer” at the Meadowlands, starting as a labor foreman in 1977 under John Chevalier. Now he is the Supervisor of Properties and knows every inch of the front side and the backstretch like the back of his hand. During the Garden State Sales era, Red could always be counted on to come through in a pinch. Bitten by the racehorse bug, he even owned and trained a few horses along the way. One of the hardest working people around that facility is Rachel Ryan, Director of Marketing. She and the incredibly talented graphic artist Kathie Estes were handing out M1 T-shirts that read “Keep Calm and Derby On.” I have witnessed Rachel do everything from shoot T-shirts from a cannon to carry 6 foot tables over her shoulder. She always smiles and forges ahead. Team Gural is indeed fortunate to have Rachel’s enthusiasm and dedication at their facility. During my tour I also ran into Administrative Assistant Jenn Bongiorno. I told her that I was going to Freehold next, and she said one word, “Sumatra.” I should listen to her more often! By this time Ken Weingartner was finished uploading all of his shots from the day, so we headed over to Tick Tock, the relatively famous NJ diner on Route 3 in Clifton. After we ordered the waitress noticed pictures of horses on my iPhone and on my shirt. The waitress inquired, “Is the Derby over at the Meadowlands today?” Doing my very best to maintain my composure I explained that the Derby was being held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky but the Meadowlands was having a public Derby Day party—hence all the traffic. There was also a Bar Mitzvah at MetLife Stadium, but that’s another story. “Oh, right, KENTUCKY Derby” she said. She was very pleasant and took good care of Ken and I after that. We broke bread and shared a few laughs, and discussed the best alternate route to Freehold. With all the NJ Turnpike construction around exit 8A, I was advised to exit early and take the back road down to Route 33. Just as were about to leave the Tick Tock, a middle-aged couple approached our table and stated, “We could not help but overhearing, but what is happening with the Derby today?” Ken and I did our best to be good ambassadors of horse racing and gave them as much information as they could handle. I guess anyone affiliated with horse racing is a celebrity on Derby Day! If nothing else, a good source of insight. Out and Southbound, Mr. Weingartner was correct--traffic was backed up at exit 8A. But tie-ups are not uncommon on the NJ Turnpike, just ask anyone who ships from Showplace or Gaitway! When I finally arrived at Freehold, the parking lot and the grandstand were jammed packed. The Dexter Cup at the Afternoon Delight is the first stop on the road to the $1.2 million Hambletonian. The event drew several representatives of the Hambletonian Society, as well as Rob Key, who was rooting for his dad’s horse Sarcastic Man. Members of the Takter family were also on the partly sunny but breezy apron. Brian Sears driving Sumatra from the rail was the prohibitive betting favorite at 30 cents on the dollar. Not one to disappoint, the White Knight led gate to wire for an elated Tom Fanning, the Hambo hopeful’s trainer. The early-season powerhouse Ray Schnittker stable picked up the 2, 3 & 4 spots, with elim. winner Sarcastic Man (post 8) grabbing the final check. It was rumored that “The Manager” president of the Yonkers-based Brian Sears fan club, was going to make a surprise appearance at Freehold for the Dexter, however, that never materialized—leaving this scribe with nothing to do but head back North to the Meadowlands to catch the Derby. Upon my ascent to the 4th floor Victory Terrace, amidst the handicappers and the humongous hats, it was clear that the Derby Day event was a success. 8,000 T-shirts had been given out before 3 pm, and it was standing room only on the track level. The press box was the perfect place to spread out my laptop, camera and program to watch the NBC telecast. Nick Salvi shared some of his home-made pulled pork, and the party began. Peter Koch joined us with about 20 minutes to post, and we bantered about chalk vs. long-shots. As horse people, we always enjoy the stories associated with the Derby. As a former horse auction company executive, the fact that California Chrome was the product of an $8,000 mare and $2,000 stud fee was especially satisfying. I am sure that my father, who often reminded would-be sellers that ‘money does not go lame in the bank,’ would have been aghast over these cowboys turning down $6m for half the horse. But, hey, I guess he is worth more now that he won the Derby...and is eyeing a shot at the Triple Crown. All eyes will be upon Pimlico in Baltimore on May 17 for the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown. Fans of harness racing will want to be at The Meadowlands that day as they host the Roosevelt Raceway Legacy Night, with a dozen stars from that iconic era on hand to sign autographs. Roosevelt memorabilia will also be on display courtesy of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. Following his T’bred TVG duties, Director of Racing Darin Zoccali joined us in the press box. He was very pleased with the M1 on-track Churchill handle, which exceeded $1.6m. In addition, about 12,000 people came to the facility. All-in-all, it was a good day for horse racing, harness or otherwise. The crowd lingered on the Victory Terrace for some time after the Derby, until a brief thunder storm sent them running for cover. The rain came and went and the crowd returned to the apron for a great night of harness racing. The brief thunder-boomer did not slow things down, as five races went faster than 1:50. 3 Brothers Stable’s JK Endofanera won the Simpson and Rockin Amadeaus outlasted Frankies Dragon in the B1/A2 Handicap. The increasingly powerful Alagna Racing had three wins on the Saturday night card, following 12 in the qualifiers. With an impressive new webpage and dynamic social media feed, Tony gets it. He is leading by example in a digital environment that helps inform owners and fans of his stable’s progress, as well as promoting the sport. It would be difficult to think of a big race at The Meadowlands where long-time track photographer Michael Lisa has not captured an iconic image. For fun, I took his picture along with his brother and fellow photographer Jim, and Paul Capozzi the master of ceremonies for winners circle presentations. These guys work hard behind the lens and behind the scenes to make sure that the winning connections have everlasting memories of their special night. To cap off the evening, David Miller, who will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in July, captured career win 11,000. It truly was a great day for horse racing! By Chris Tully, for Harnesslink.com
East Rutherford, NJ --- The Whata Baron Series for pacing horses and geldings opened with a pair of $22,500 divisions on Saturday night (April 5) at Meadowlands Racetrack. The track was fast and temperature seasonal when the first split went away as race six with Wake Up Peter redeeming himself and his backers after a pair of losses as the 3-5 favorite. Starting from the rail for driver Scott Zeron, Wake Up Peter protected his position through the first turn then responded to Zeron’s guidance to take the lead past the half in :55.3. Facing no challenges around the final bend, Wake Up Peter sprinted clear in early stretch and held safe for the 1:51 win. Sky Is The Limit was second and Ima Giggity Fool finished third. The winner is trained by the Remmen stable for owner Bradley Grant of Ontario. In the second division favored Captive Audience was an impressive 1:49 winner, leading all the way for Andy Miller. Sent through a quick :26.3 opening split, Miller did not welcome the early move from highly-regarded Pompano invader Prairie Jaguar passing the three-eighths, a move that was quickly aborted by his pilot Jim Morrill, Jr. Captive Audience continued through honest fractions of :55 and 1:22.2 before a credible :27.3 into the wind closed it out. Scott Rocks sat the pocket throughout and held second with Summer Smackdown third. Corey Johnson trains the winner for Debbie Element and Mac Nichol of Ontario. In the $30,000 final of the Dash For The "C" Note for C-1 pacers, Valentino and driver Andy Miller were able to lead the field from start to finish to win in 1:51.2. A game I'm Banksy (John Campbell) was second with Verdad (Mike Wilder) third. Trained by Nick Surick for the KDM Stables and JL Benson Stables, it was the second win this year for Valentino, a seven-year-old stallion by Rocknroll Hanover. He paid $4.40 to win. by Nick Saliv, for the Meadowlands
East Rutherford, NJ: Beginning on Saturday, March 22 The Meadowlands will host a six week tournament for drivers that pits the sport's established stars against the emerging new talent. Each Saturday night through April 19 (five legs) a point tally determined by each driver's order of finish will be kept over the course of the entire race card and the top point earner for each of those two groups will be awarded $2,000 for their efforts. The tournament will conclude on April 26 with a final in which the top point earners over the course of the five preliminary legs will compete in a series of races on the card. The winner of the final will be awarded $15,000, second place is worth $5,000, third $3,000 and all other finalists will receive $1,000. This event is jointly sponsored by Jeff Gural and The Meadowlands with no effect on the purse account. "During the Levy Series at Yonkers I thought this would be an opportunity to reward those drivers who remain loyal to the Meadowlands and at the same time create an opportunity for the younger drivers to earn some extra money," said Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural. "With increased competition for the handle looming we feel the need to generate promotions that will hold the interest of our customers. "I think this is also a great chance for out of town drivers to show off their skills at the sport's most competitive racetrack during a time when there will be increased opportunity for them to get drives. We welcome those young drivers that would like to try their luck at The Meadowlands." There will be no specifically dedicated races for this contest. All drivers will be competing for their own interests, there is no team element other than to determine the top point earners for the purpose of awarding the prizes. The contest will consist of all races on each of the Saturday programs and the process will remain as it normally is so far as entering horses and driver selections. The trainers will enter their horses listing the driver of their choice. The drivers will make their choices with the judges by scratch time and trainers will be required to call the judges and react to those choices, then name whomever they wish if their first choice has gone elsewhere. The "Legends" will be comprised of Yannick Gingras, David Miller, Corey Callahan, Tim Tetrick, Andy Miller and John Campbell (who expects to return to the sulky on March 28). The "Phenoms" will include Scott Zeron, Andy Mc Carthy, Joe Bongiorno, Marcus Miller, Jimmy Marohn, Jr, and Tyler Smith among others. Any drivers not listed above who race at The Meadowlands on the tournament Saturdays will compete as members of the "Phenoms" and are eligible for any prize awarded to that group. The drivers named above and any others will compete of their own volition, as their personal schedule allows. They may compete in as many or as few of the preliminary legs as they choose. Contact Nick Salvi at (607) 972-5500 with inquiries.
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.
A few significant reductions have been made to the cost of nominating and sustaining your pacing colts to The Meadowlands Pace for 2014 and beyond. Recognizing the high cost of staking and the increased opportunities that exist for the three year old pacing colt division, the nominating and sustaining payments for the 2014 Meadowlands Pace have been reduced by nearly 20%. Chief among these cuts is the price to nominate having been slashed in half, from $1,000 to $500. Another new wrinkle for 2014 is a tiered declaration fee, dropping the cost of entry in the elimination races from the single declaration fee of $6,000 to $2,500 for the elimination and then $5,000 to go in the final (if eliminations are not needed, the cost to race in the final will be $7,500). It will cost $5,000 less than 2013 for a horse to put his nose on the gate in a Meadowlands Pace elimination. This should allow more owners to take a crack at one of the classics and a chance to earn the cost of the final declaration fee while racing in the elimination. The purse for the 2014 Meadowlands Pace is estimated to be $750,000 with the eliminations to go for $50,000. Looking ahead, the Meadowlands Pace is being transitioned from an Early Closer, which requires no nomination until the year in which the race will be contested, to a stake with payments due in prior years. To begin, a two year old nomination payment of $400 on the foals of 2012 to race in the 2015 Pace is due on March 15, 2014. After this initial fee, the nominated horse will be eligible to be sustained to the 2015 Pace by making $2,000 February 15 and $2,500 March 15 payments. The total payments then represent a further reduction of 25% versus the cost in 2014. "The Meadowlands Pace is the signature event at The Meadowlands," said Chairman Jeff Gural. "These three year old pacers have a lot of options now, more than ever before, and we feel it is important to make this event as affordable and attractive as possible. It's what the horsemen deserve and it's what The Meadowlands Pace deserves. I truly hope the horsemen respond with their nominations." "This is a big step for The Meadowlands Pace," said Director of Racing Operations, Darin Zoccali. "Our team in the racing department has been working on this concept for a year. I want to thank Peter Koch and Nick Salvi for their creativity and ingenuity in coming up with a game plan that we all believe will make The Meadowlands Pace better than ever. We have strong confidence that these changes will yield more nominations, more horses sustained throughout the payment process and more horses entered in the Eliminations. The end result will be a deeper, more competitive field and a higher purse, which is in the best interest of the horsemen and The Meadowlands Pace itself." An announcement regarding the 2016 Meadowlands Pace and beyond along with its payment schedule will be made public in the near future. The application for the 2014 Meadowlands Pace nomination can be found here: http://meadowlandsracetrack.com/uploadedFiles/Horsemen/Harness_Stakes_Applications/2014%203YO%20early%20closing%20program_pace.pdf The application for the two year old nomination for the 2015 Meadowlands Pace can be found here: http://meadowlandsracetrack.com/uploadedFiles/Horsemen/Harness_Stakes_Applications/meadowlands%20pace%20stakes%20ad.pdf by Darin Zoccali for The Meadowlands
As is my annual tradition, it's time for my annual 'Things to be Thankful For' list. I am sure I am missing some people so forgive me ahead of time. Here is this year's list with the entries in no particular order. Captaintreacherous and Bee A Magician - Who would think we would be at the conclusion of the 2013 racing campaign and still have a debate about who may be the recipient of Horse of the Year Honors? Sure, Bee A Magician right now is in front, but a victory by Captaintreacherous in the TVG FFA Series Final against older horses would result in the Captain taking the honors away from this fantastic filly at the last possible moment TVG and the Meadowlands for the TVG FFA Series - With all due respect to the Cleveland Classic, without this partnership of TVG and the Meadowlands, most of the top FFA horses would have called it a season after the Breeders Crown. This partnership is giving us two great races and shows what can happen when ADWs and tracks work together. I could mention the Gural team at the Meadowlands for their efforts in bringing Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment to fruition but it is time we mention someone within Team Gural for praise. For that reason, we are thankful for Nick Salvi, a man without a title but is everywhere. In addition to his duties at the three Gural-operated tracks, he write press releases for the Breeders Crown, The Red Mile, and is seen at the sales and of course Lexington. Did I mention that Nick is also Vice-President of the Grand Circuit? Nick may not have made his mark as a driver/trainer, but the sport is richer having Nick on the business-side of the industry. Once again, we are thankful for John Manzi - Not only does he attempt to keep racing in the forefront as much as possible at Monticello Raceway, Manzi is another Press Release King. Let's see from memory, in addition to writing press releases for Monticello Raceway, he writes press releases for the CKG Billings Series, NAADA, USHWA Monticello-Goshen Chapter, Historic Track and others. If there is a press release to be written, they know who to call, John Manzi. Brett Boyd, President of the MHHA - The situation in Michigan is becoming worse every year and most people wouldn't want to be stuck in a position of leadership, yet Boyd keeps fighting the battle on behalf of Michigan Harness Horsemen no matter how poor the odds are. The horsemen in Michigan should be thankful they have someone like Boyd fighting for them and maybe he will be able to pull victory out of the lions mouth. We should be thankful as well. Dave McCaffrey - The leader of the Illinois Harness Horsemen Association has been put through the screws this past year with the fight over ADW wagering in the Prairie State. Would you like to be the leader of a group facing the possibility of only 13 days of racing in 2014 if the politicians can't be won over? Neither would I but we are thankful McCaffery still is working on leading the harness industry in his state to a renaissance. . Bob Marks - Now a man without a portfolio since Peretti Farms has had its dispersal sale, we can say how much racing has been blessed to have Marks on our side. From Top Trotter, to writing articles for Hoof Beats, to marketing Peretti stallions and yearlings, he has done it all. Marks may be talking about life outside of racing but I don't think having Marks outside of racing is in our best interests. While we are thankful for what Marks has done, hopefully someone ropes him in, at least on a part time basis, so he remains in racing. Heather Vitale - Ms. Sunshine is a wonderful spokesman for the sport with her hosting and producing Post Time and co-hosting PA Harnessweek with her partner in crime Steve Ross. Despite being run down in the effort of putting together her Post Time show, she maintained her good nature. When she is not producing these shows, she takes care of her two children and volunteers with non-profit organization. Heather gives it all for the sport and the time has come for this regional treasure to be given national exposure, perhaps working the Hambletonian and Breeders Crown. Jodie Doherty - In addition to raising children and being the backbone behind a small family stable, this young lady spends her time educating people on the plight of unwanted race horses and about those looking to take advantage of those good-natured people trying to help them. She doesn't just talk the talk, she also walks the talk as she has her own barn of pensioners, including a thoroughbred horse. There are others who do similar work be it running rescues or have a higher profile to speak from but Doherty's pretty effective just the same. Horse Rescues (legitimate) - Harness racing and for that fact all of racing should be thankful for their respective rescues. Yes, there is a flood of unwanted race horses but these rescues do their part by saving as many horses they can while constantly fundraising and struggling to pay the bills. It's a thankless job but they are doing it. We thank these rescues and those who volunteer their time helping them. A thank you to their donors needs to be said as well. Monica Thors - She had put her racing stable on hiatus for the past three years working on a labor of love, the documentary I Am a Harness Racing Horse. She battles to get this film telling the story of harness racing and its equine stars despite running into roadblocks when she shouldn't have to. As the film is now in post production, she is slowly ramping up her racing stable for its return to the racing wars. We are thankful for her spirit to never say no. Those tracks and horsemen groups which go the extra mile and support efforts to promote those groups who support horse rescue. Yes, things are tight these days but there are ways to help bring attention and funds to these groups and even get some publicity out of it. Yet it is surprising how many groups when asked to make a relatively small donation to help promote these groups say no. I just hope those who say 'No' when asked are doing their part in other ways. Otherwise, shame on them. Finally, we are thankful to all those who are doing what they can for Anthony Coletta who is battling to recover from a nasty accident at Harrah's Philadelphia. From those who have the resources to do a lot to those who don't have the resources to do much, we are thankful that you are doing what you can. Allow me to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. by Allan Schott from View From the Racetrack Grandstand email@example.com