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Big Night For Blackler, Zeron

Published: January 30, 2016 10:55 pm ET

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Just like the night before, Saturday's (Jan. 30) harness racing program at The Meadowlands attracted over $3 million in total handle, and millionaire pacer Real Nice ($7.60) sustained a first-over push to capture the evening's featured $16,000 top-level conditioned pace for the hot 'Team Scott.'

All-sources handle for the 14-race card was $3,087,871, a healthy increase of $240,642 from the corresponding Saturday card in 2015, with both live and export handle showing gains over the previous year.

In the night's top pace, Real Nice settled into a comfortable mid-pack stalking spot, situated well off a :26.3 initial quarter from pacesetter Sweet Beach (Brett Miller). On approach to race's mid-point, Scott Zeron angled the 11-year-old Real Artist gelding off the pegs to head the outer flow, but Real Nice didn't gear up in earnest until well after a :54.1 half. On the far turn, Real Nice made up four lengths through a :27.3 third split, continuing on to duel with Sweet Beach off the far turn. The now 54-time winner ultimately took charge in the final sixteenth, fully extended to just collar Sweet Beach and narrowly stave off the flying 66-1 longshot First Of Itskind (Jim Marohn Jr.) for the slimmest of victories in 1:49.4. Lukewarm 5-2 favourite Kingofthejungle (Andy Miller) only could muster a fourth-place finish after angling second-over a quarter from home and not accelerating until the final 70 yards.

Scott Blackler trains Real Nice, who recorded his third consecutive victory in tonight's feature, for Anthony Scussel and the Lightning 5 Racing Stable. Blackler also found success with Santanna Star ($2.60, 1:52.4) and Ethan Hanover ($23.80, 1:51), teaming up with Zeron on both occasions. The 26-year-old Zeron led all drivers with six wins on the night, also scoring aboard Wayward Son ($63.60, 1:52.3), Hope For Badlands ($7.20, 1:52), and Giant Slayer ($6.80, 1:52.1).

The sub-featured $13,000 third-level conditioned pace saw Starskys Dream N ($6.20) work to the fore early after losing cover upon reaching the backstretch, rate a :57 middle half, and stave off a sustained first-over bid from Pansformative while accelerating to a half-length, 1:51.1 win. Tim Tetrick drove the 11-time winner for owner Richard Poillucci and trainer Kelvin Harrison.

Heading to the upcoming Friday (Feb. 5) program, not only will both 20-cent Jackpot High 5 wagers carry over ($14,981 to the seventh race; $73,603 to the finale), but the 50-cent Pick 5 will also see added money in the pool, with $18,653 carrying over after Saturday's punters were stymied by 16-1 and 30-1 winners in the sequence. Post time will be 6:35 p.m. Eastern.

Big M Hosts Inaugural Chili Cookoff

Eighteen cooks entered Meadowlands Racetrack’s inaugural Homestyle Chili Cookoff all vying for the grand prize of $1,000 and a spot in the International Chili Society’s World Championship in Reno, Nevada.

David Lorenz from Marlton, New Jersey took home the $1,000 prize with for his homestyle red meat filled chili.

“This is just awesome,” Lorenz stated after his win. “I’ll represent the Meadowlands proudly in the Championship.”

In addition to the chili competition, a separate side contest for homemade salsa with a $500 prize was also held. Dave Ronge from Prince William, Connecticut took the top spot and will also compete in the World Championships in Reno, Nevada.

All those at the track were able to sample and vote for their favourite chili and salsa throughout the evening. Laura Stoessel from West Milford, New Jersey was voted the People’s Choice Chili Champion and James McCusker from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania took home the $250 People’s Choice Salsa prize.

“We are extremely pleased with the turnout for this first time event,” said Meadowlands General Manager and CEO Jason M. Settlemoir. “We sampled some delicious salsa and chili and plan on making this an annual cookoff!”

(With files from Meadowlands Racetrack)

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