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TVG Series Highlights Big M Opener

Published: November 23, 2013 10:11 pm ET

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Opening night at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment's new facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey featured the final $50,000 preliminary legs for the TVG Free For All Championship Series on Saturday.

Prior to the first 13-race card in front of the new $88-million grandstand, TVG competitor Foiled Again and the retired Gallo Blue Chip, harness racing's richest pacers with combined earnings of more than $10 million, shared the spotlight in a rare moment on track together during the opening ceremonies with Jeff Gural, Sam McKee, Tom Luchento and Jason Settlemoir.

“To all the people who helped -- and there are many of you -- and for all the people who are here tonight, I hope you enjoy what you see,” said Gural in front of an estimated crowd of 15,000 in attendance. “It’s not only racing, it’s also entertainment.”

Ontario-sired pacer Alexie Mattosie ($4.40) and driver David Miller were the first winners at the renewed Meadowlands Racetrack on Saturday. The 7-5 favourite romped to an open length victory in 1:50.4 amidst early evening snow squalls with Salevstor Stallion (Ron Pierce) and Six Gun (Joe Bongiorno) rounding out the top three finishers.

The seven-year-old No Pan Intended gelding is trained by Nikolas Drennan and owned by Ontario's Donald Lindsey, Paul Kleinpaste, Dennis Mavrin and Oregon's William Alempijevic.

Alexie Mattosie was greeted in the winner's circle by Gural and horseman Ray Remmen, who trained The Meadowlands' first ever winner Quick Baron in 1976.

The co-featured TVG Free For All Championship Series races were later won by Wishing Stone ($21) and Foiled Again ($5) for Meadowlands' leading driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Ron Burke.

After leaving from the outside post six, 9-1 longshot Wishing Stone carved out fractions of :28.3, :56 and 1:24.4 en route to a 1:54 triumph in the trotting division. Arch Madness (Trond Smedshammer) followed one length behind off a pocket trip while 2-5 favourite Market Share (Tim Tetrick) came on for third.

"I think he's as good as anybody, there's no doubt in my mind," said Gingras after the victory. "The last few weeks it just hasn't worked out the way he likes it. He likes to be involved and he showed it tonight."

Double millionaire Wishing Stone earned his 20th career win.

The six-year-old Conway Hall gelding is owned by Cowboyland Aalborg, T L P Stable, J And T Silva Stables LLC and Deo Volente Farms LLC.

Foiled Again and Gingras returned to the winner's circle after holding off Warrawee Needy (Tim Tetrick) in the 1:49.3 pacing division.

Bolt The Duer (Mark MacDonald) fired off the gate from the outside post eight, but the lead quickly changed hands as the early pocket-pulling Golden Receiver (Corey Callahan) brushed by into a :27.1 opening quarter, followed by a parked out Sweet Lou (David Miller).

Sweet Lou fronted the field through middle splits of :53.4 and 1:22 with 3-2 favourite Foiled Again advancing first over from fifth. Foiled Again overtook his stablemate into the stretch and then held off the quick-closing Warrawee Needy for his 75th career win. Modern Legend (John Campbell) came on for third over Sweet Lou.

After the victory, Burke described watching his two pacers leading during the race as "a Catch 22."

"I've got 'Lou' on the front that's rolling and I've got 'Foiled' coming so you know you want both to dig in and hang on, but you know 'Foiled' is a little tougher than 'Lou' at this stage in his career and is probably going to wear him down late," he said.

The nine-year-old Dragon Again gelding, whose bankroll climbed to $5.78 million, is owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and JJK Stables LLC.

"I love our chances [for the final]," said Burke. "We just need to draw well. If he draws [post] 10, he's screwed."

Burke's other starter, Fred And Ginger (Ron Pierce), pulled up during the race and the trainer noted his pacer has a heart condition and will likely be retiring to stand stud.

Both $500,000 TVG finals will take place next Saturday, November 30 at The Meadowlands along with the Fall Four Stakes.

In advance of the Nadia Lobell, heavy 1-5 favourite Charisma Hanover ($2.40) and Gingras held off Aunt Caroline (Scott Zeron) to win a $25,000 prep race for the three-year-old pacing fillies in 1:51.4. The Burke trainee worked her way to the lead through a :27.2 opening quarter and fronted the field through middle splits of :55.3 and 1:23.3 with Aunt Caroline closing up the inside down the stretch. Ufs Dragon Queen finished third. The Dragon Again filly earned her fifth straight victory for Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.

Saturday night's $30,000 Free For All Handicap Pace was won by outsider State Treasurer ($5.60) and David Miller for trainer Dr. Ian Moore and owners Sally MacDonald of P.E.I. and Paul MacDonald of Saskatchewan. The four-year-old son of Real Desire trailed the field early on before following cover into the stretch and charging home for the 1:52.2 triumph. Fat Mans Alley (Tim Tetrick) finished second with American Rage (Mark MacDonald) third.

The on-track handle in the new facility reached $530,917, an impressive 18 per cent of the total $2,968,600.

To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Meadowlands Racetrack.

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