Day At The Track

It's Opening Day for Plainridge Park

12:44 AM 13 Apr 2021 NZST
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Plainridge Park, harness racing
Plainridge Park starts 2021 season Monday
Mark Hall/USTA Photo

Plainville, MA --- Live harness racing action returns to New England on Monday (April 12) when Plainridge Park kicks off their 22nd season of racing over the fast five-eighths mile track located south of Boston.

After seeing the 2020 season start late due to the global pandemic and racing only 68 days, track officials and horsemen alike are happy to get this year underway on schedule and look forward to a complete and successful meeting.

The 110-day session starts out on a Monday, Thursday, Friday schedule from opening day through August 30 with post time at 4 p.m. The one exception is Sunday (July 25) which will have a 2 p.m. post when the Grand Circuit comes to town.

Then in September, Plainridge goes to four days a week, adding Sunday to the mix and shifting post time to 2 p.m. for all race days through October 31. November will move post time once again to 1 p.m. and reverts to the original Monday, Thursday, Friday schedule until the final week when one more Sunday is added and Thursday is moved to Wednesday, due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Besides live racing, the track also offers a full slate of simulcast wagering seven days a week.

"We are focusing on a safe start to the season with the same Covid protocols in place as last year," said Steve O'Toole, General Manager of live racing at Plainridge Park. "Fans are allowed in, but at a limited capacity and we look forward to welcoming everyone back for another exciting season of racing."

Those protocols include temperature checks upon arrival, wearing a mask at all times and maintaining social distancing. Sanitizing stations will also located throughout the entire facility.

The wagering menu will feature an early and late double, exacta and trifecta in every race and superfectas offered in select races on each card. The track's two signature bets will also be back with the Bay State Pick-6 starting in race three and running through race eight and the Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta in race nine.

Last year's top three drivers will be back for opening day and they will be joined by the "King of the Hill" from 2016 and 2017.

2020 leading dash and money winning driver Shawn Gray, who posted 111 victories and bankrolled over $1 million in purses, will be back to defend his title against Drew Monti (second with 93 wins in 2020), Bruce Ranger (third with 92 wins in 2020) and the rest of the Plainridge driving colony.

However added to the mix will be two-time Plainridge dash title winner Greg Merton, who was the first driver in the history of harness racing in the state of Massachusetts to top the $1 million mark in earnings when he did it in 2016 ($1.3 million). He also posted a record 229 wins that year. Merton broke both of those records in 2017 when he won 230 races and $1.5 million in purses.

Last year's top trainers Melissa Beckwith (37 wins), Jimmy Nickerson (32 wins), Gretchen Athearn (26) and Sheena Mcelhiney (26) will also be back and racing on opening day along with Jolene Andrews, Joe Nelson, Mike Graffam and a host of other top resident conditioners.

The stake schedule will once again highlight the meet with the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot and $100,000 Clara Barton Distaff Pace returning on Sunday (July 25). Last year those races produced two all-time track records when Manchego trotted a scorching 1:49.3 mile and Shartin N paced home in 1:48.1, breaking her own mark from the prior year. The 33 horses eligible to those stakes this year will provide some of the most exciting racing of this year's meet.

Later in the season, the fall classic Massachusetts Sire Stakes will return and feature the best 2 and 3-year-old trotters and pacers bred in the state. The four week session kicks off on Sunday (Sept. 26) and will bring an exciting round of juvenile competition to the Commonwealth.

Here is the complete 2021 Massachusetts Sire Stake Race Schedule:

Sunday (Sept. 26) 3-year-old First Leg

Monday (Sept. 27) 2-year-old First Leg

Sunday (Oct. 3) 3-year-old Second Leg

Monday (Oct. 4) 2-year-old Second Leg

Sunday (Oct. 17) 2-year-old Third Leg

Monday (Oct. 18) 3-year-old Third Leg

Monday (Oct. 25) 2 and 3-year-old Finals

For all the latest news and updates concerning racing at Plainridge Park, log on to the website at and the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts at

By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts
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