Saturday (March 4) was Ladies’ Night at The Meadowlands, as International Women’s Day was celebrated with an all-female pairing on the simulcast desk as well as a pair of dashes that featured all female drivers.
“I am thrilled by the response we got to this event,” said Big M Marketing Coordinator and TV Talent Jessica Otten. “We had 19 girls face off in our two International Women’s Day races, with some of our competitors coming all the way from Denmark to participate. This has been a great night.”
Otten, who is seen on the Sam McKee Memorial Broadcast Set for every race card, shared the desk Saturday with a fresh face, Ashley Mailloux, a freelance talent who knows both the harness and Thoroughbred games.
“I was so excited to be a part of this,” said Mailloux. “I can’t wait for next year.”
Charlene Cushing was the first International Woman's Day race winner, guiding Southwind Dredge to victory in 1:54 as the 7-2 second choice in a claiming pace.
“I’ve been driving in Maine since 2006,” said Cushing, who has competed a handful of times at The Big M. “Knowing the track definitely helped. My horse likes to race from behind, so I waited patiently [in the three-hole]. I thought maybe I could come up the rail. I got some luck and had plenty of pace.
“We had girls come from all over to be here, and every one of them is exceptional. I was glad to be a part of it.”
Lauren Tritton, who was Otten’s guest on the track’s “In the Sulky” segment during the pregame show, won the other dash with ease as Harry Knows IR, a horse from her stable trained by her husband Shane, scored in 1:54.1 as the 1-9 public choice in a conditioned trot.
“He’s a big arrogant trotter and I just love him,” said Tritton. “I’ve been in a million of these races and never won one. I am so glad to have been a part of this. It’s such a good thing for women to be represented.”
NANDOLO WINS AGAIN: It shouldn’t have come as a shock after Nandolo N won the featured $45,000 Open 2/Open 1 Handicap for pacers Saturday night at The Meadowlands. After all, he’d been down this road before.
It was on the first of two Sunday afternoon programs conducted this year at The Big M when Nandolo N won the feature in his last appearance at the mile oval, stopping the clock in an eye-popping 1:48.3 on Jan. 22, which remains the fastest mile of the year in the sport.
Driver Jason Bartlett kept Nandolo N in contention that day and did so again Saturday to give the nine-year-old his third win from five starts this year.
“My horse is real quirky,” said Bartlett. “Nine times out of 10, I don’t leave with him, but he dragged me out of there and it worked out.”
Nandolo N did leave quickly – against his driver’s wishes – and set up shop in the pocket behind 20-1 longshot Grand Cayman, who cut fractions of :27, :54.1 and 1:21.4. While Nandolo N was in an ideal spot, 3-5 favourite Jimmy Freight was going a nightmare 10-hole trip, never seeing the pylons before getting into a fourth-over flow down the backside.
Through the stretch, Nandolo N burst out of the pocket to go after the leader and did not collar a stubborn Grand Cayman until they were inside the sixteenth pole. Nandolo N won it by three-quarters of a length and Grand Cayman was second with an airborne-through-the-stretch Jimmy Freight getting up for third. The time for the mile was 1:49.4.
“[Winning trainer] Shane [Tritton] always has his horses ready to race,” said Bartlett. “At the top of the lane, I was confident. My horse doesn’t do anything fancy, never wins by more than one or two lengths. I was just worried where Jimmy [Freight] was.”
Nandolo N, a gelded son of Betterthancheddar-Midnight In Paris who is owned by Stephen Klunowski, paid $12.40 to win as the 5-1 second choice in the betting. He now has 25 wins from 94 lifetime starts and a bankroll that stands at $582,161.
BACK-TO-BACK $4 MILLION NIGHTS: After wagering reached an industry 2023-best $4.5 million on the Friday night card, betting remained robust on Saturday as $4,062,855 was put in play on the 14-race program.
The weekend total of $8.5 million is noteworthy since only twice since the start of 2021 had the $8-million weekend barrier been busted, and those were both Hambletonian weekends.
Betting has now gone past the $3-million mark on all 17 Friday and Saturday night programs during 2023. A year ago, the $3-million plateau was reached 23 times over an 85-program schedule.
A LITTLE MORE: A double carryover of $45,254 enticed players to bet $118,217 in “new money” into the 20-cent Pick-6 pool, for a grand total of $163,471. Those with winning tickets cashed in for a handsome $6,411.52 after winner’s odds during the sequence were 7-2, 2-1, 5-1, 8-1, 9-2 and 3-1.
The sharp Rich And Miserable made it three wins in five starts this year in the $31,500 Open 1 Handicap for trotters. Dave Miller drove the 9-5 second choice for trainer Todd Buter. The time for the mile was 1:52.4.
Bartlett and Yannick Gingras led the driver colony with three winners apiece. Edwin Quevedo, Tritton and Ron Burke all trained a pair to victory lane.
Racing resumes Friday (March 10) at 6:20 p.m. (EST).
(with files from The Meadowlands)