The Standardbred Retirement Foundation Series for three-year-olds kicked off on Friday night (March 31) at The Meadowlands, and not only did the connections of some inexperienced competitors get a feel for how good their horses may go on to be, but a handful of retired pacers and trotters also benefited in a big way as well.
The brainchild of Meadowlands’ Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Gural, a big chunk of change went toward the care of retired Standardbreds as 175 horses entered the series at $200 each. After The Big M matched that dollar for dollar, the donation to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation totalled $70,000.
That’s a good thing for horses no longer racing, but as far as those who are still on the track, the first of three $20,000 divisions, this one for filly pacers, went to Super Girl, a daughter of Downbytheseaside-Symphony In Motion, who stopped the clock in 1:50.3 for trainer Mark Harder.
The 5-1 third choice in the betting, Super Girl returned $12.60 while winning for the second time from seven career starts, all during 2023. It was a head back to Always B Naughty with 4-5 favourite C Is For Cookie third.
“She’s been racing super,” said driver Todd McCarthy of his pocket-trip winner, who is owned by breeder Joseph Jannuzzelli and Erin Gigoux. “They come a pretty quick back half and she did a pretty good job.”
In the second division, for trotting fillies, Bella Macchiato bested 1-5 public choice Sheer Faith by a diminishing neck at the finish with a wire-to-wire score in 1:53.4 for driver Josert Fonseca. The Empress Ice was third.
Friday marked the first Big M appearance of the year for 2020 Dan Patch Trainer of the Year Nancy Takter.
“It’s our first weekend of racing this year at The Meadowlands and it’s good to get everybody rolling again," said Takter. "[Bella Macchiato] raced super. Josert was able to get her to relax during the middle half [which was rated in :59].”
Bella Macchiato, a daughter of Bar Hopping-Sorbet Hanover who was making her seasonal debut, paid $11.60 as the 9-2 second choice in the betting.
Takter shares ownership with Black Horse Racing, Christina Takter and Goran Anderberg.
Division three, another filly pace, went to 8-5 favourite Annas Wish in 1:52.2.
The Christopher Freck trainee, who was making her 2023 debut, made the top while parked to the half with Tim Tetrick driving and sailed home from there an easy two-length winner over Always A Show Off. Ultimate Loulou was third.
Annas Wish returned $5.20 to her backers.
The Lazarus N-Keystone I Wish filly is owned by Anthony Olswfski.
With Dribbling Bi and driver Tyler Miller rocking the toteboard at odds of 47-1 in the ninth race, no winning tickets were sold on the 20-cent Pick-6. The carryover for Saturday’s eighth race will be $7,303.61. Free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to playmeadowlands.com.
All-source betting totalled $3,116,790, thanks in part to the 12th race that saw $335,312 put in play, keeping The Big M’s streak of surpassing the magic $3-million mark intact. There have been 24 Friday and Saturday night programs conducted during 2023 and every one has seen wagering exceed $3 million. During 2022, betting went past the $3-million mark 23 times during the 85-program season.
The 20-cent Pick-5 returned $6,209.62 after winner’s odds during the sequence were a far-from-outrageous 8-1, 5-1, 9-2, 4-1 and 8-5.
Tetrick led the driver’s colony with three winners on the night.
Racing resumes Saturday at 6:20 p.m.
(With files from The Meadowlands)