As if eight big-money stakes events – with purses totalling over $2.7 million – wasn’t enough, Saturday night (Nov. 25) at The Meadowlands may bring some history as well, when the three-year-old male pacing superstar Confederate takes on the best older stock in training in an attempt to become the first sophomore ever to win the FanDuel Open Pace on “Fall Four/FanDuel Championships Night.”
Post time for the first race is 6:20 p.m., with The Big M live simulcast pre-game show, featuring Dave Little and Jessica Otten, set to begin at 5:45 p.m.
As we wind down to the end of the year, sports and racing enthusiasts have a common thought: Who is the best? Fans have always asked that question among friends and family over many years – and many beers. In a perfect world, at the end of the year, a dramatic final game – or final race – decides everything.
John Gaines must have thought the same thing.
Gaines, who built Gainesway Farm into one of the Thoroughbred industry's leading stud farms, is the man credited with founding the Breeders’ Cup. He envisioned a year-end showcase where the top three-year-olds would take on the top horses in the “Classic Division.”
Gaines passed away 18 years ago, but his vision continues to live on.
Now, the harness industry has the FanDuel Championships, where a three-year-old can take the ultimate challenge and face-off with more seasoned older foes in a quest for late-season glory, not to mention divisional honours. Unlike the Thoroughbred game, where a handful of three-year-olds have won the Classic, no Standardbred three-year-old pacer has ever won the FanDuel Open Pace. Confederate, the Meadowlands Pace and Breeders Crown champion, aims to be the first.
“The Meadowlands is proud to be hosting one of the most-anticipated races in years,” said Jason Settlemoir, Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager. “This is the heavyweight championship fight that everyone wants to see and The Meadowlands is proud to host this historic event. The ultimate battle on a mile track for horse racing supremacy and it will be settled on the track, as it should be.”
Standing in Confederate’s way in the $350,000 event is Bythemissal, a four-year-old whose four-race winning streak includes victories in the Breeders Crown and Potomac, and Tattoo Artist, who had rocketed to the top of his division by winning seven in a row before Bythemissal got the best of him in the two aforementioned events.
“As for the decision to race in the FanDuel Pace, it was a matter of nothing to lose while something great for the game,” said five-time Meadowlands Pace winner Brett Pelling, the trainer of Confederate. “As far as the race is concerned, I think all three horses have put in superlative, dominant efforts all season, which turns this into a driver/trainer race. Who gets the performance on a cool night in late November?”
But Confederate won’t be the only three-year-old taking on older foes in the FanDuel Championships. In fact, for the first time, there will be one sophomore taking on senior performers in each of the events.
Twin B Joe Fresh, the Kentucky Sire Stakes champion, will try her luck in the $175,000 FanDuel Open Mares Pace, while in the $175,000 FanDuel Open Mares Trot, Bond, the Breeders Crown and Elegantimage champion, will try for her sixth win in her last seven starts.
Finally, Tactical Approach, the Hambletonian, Kentucky Futurity and Breeders Crown winner, will take on Alrajah One IT, Its Academic and Southwind Tyrion in the $350,000 FanDuel Open Trot. Regardless of result, Tactical Approach will retire after the race.
“I want to thank the connections of these three-year-olds for accepting the invitations and taking on the challenge of competing against the very best the sport has to offer,” said Settlemoir. “Because of their sportsmanship, the FanDuel Championships this year will generate enormous interest in Standardbred racing to fans all over the world. On behalf of The Meadowlands and the entire sport, [Meadowlands Chairman and Chief Executive Officer] Mr. [Jeff] Gural and I want to thank these owners. Your love of the game makes racing better.”
But the FanDuel events are far from what the evening will offer as a whole.
Also on tap will be The Big M’s Fall Four stakes finals for two-year-olds: the $423,000 Valley Victory for male trotters, $376,000 Three Diamonds for filly pacers, $428,000 Goldsmith Maid for filly trotters and $454,000 Governor’s Cup for male pacers.
Purses for the eight featured events total $2,731,000. There will be 14 races on the program.
“We have an enormously popular product and with big fields and highly competitive races, all kinds of scores are possible," said Settlemoir of the wagering options. "Lately, The Meadowlands is like that loose slot machine that keeps paying off.”
With low minimum wagers and a low 15 per cent takeout, players have been cashing some big tickets at the mile oval.
On Friday, Nov. 17, big payouts came in the 20-cent Pick Six ($39,275), Early 20-cent Hi-5 ($5,072) and Late 50-cent Pick-4 ($2,958). Saturday’s big hits came in the 20-cent Pick-8 ($12,079) and Early 20-cent Hi-5 ($2,713).
Fans can enter for a chance to win a $500 win wager this Saturday night. One will be given away for all eight of the major stakes events.
Fans are reminded that there is no live racing on Friday, Nov. 24 due to the Dolphins-Jets game at MetLife Stadium. Racing will resume on Saturday at 6:20 p.m. with the Fall Four and FanDuel Championships.
John Rallis will make the trek down from his Toronto home and join The Big M TV team for Fall Four/FanDuel Championships Night at the mile oval.
Rallis, 27, has been the associate editor for TROT Magazine since October of 2022. Harness fans are familiar with his work, as he served as a commentator on Woodbine Mohawk Park’s nightly simulcast presentation from April through October of this year.
“It’s been a lot of fun getting a chance,” said Rallis. “And I am looking forward to being a part of such a big night at The Meadowlands.”
Free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to playmeadowlands.com.
On Saturday, patrons are being asked to please consider bringing a new unwrapped toy to the track for children in need. For each toy you donate, you will receive a $5 betting voucher. The Big M’s Toys for Tots collection drive runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 9. On Friday, Dec. 9, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., former Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa will be on-site helping the U.S. Marine Corps collect toys for donation.
(With files from The Meadowlands)