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Field Set For 'Big M's S-Bred Turf Race

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Published: June 17, 2009 12:16 pm ET

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Harness racing returns to the Meadowlands turf course for the first time in more than 30 years on Friday, June 19, 2009.

A field of eight pacers will take to the grass in the $15,000 fifth race. They will line up behind the mobile starting gate at 8:27 p.m. (est.) for the one-mile event. In the case of inclement weather, the race will move to the main track.

The last time the Meadowlands held a turf race for standardbred racehorses was the Coliseum Cup on June 21, 1978. It was a competition amongst racing's Manzi family -- patriarchs John, Sr., Al and Richard, as well as cousins Steve, Richard, Jr., Gary, John and Cat. Richard Manzi, Jr. won the race with a pacer named El Nob in a time of 2:09.3.

While turf racing for standardbreds is a rarity in the United States, it is common practice at United Kingdom and 'down under' racetracks.

Chris Ryder, who will send out Onedin Legacy N from Post 1 in the Friday feature, experienced grass racing in his native New Zealand.

"I'd say five to 10 per cent of the races there now are on the grass," noted Ryder, who was born in Greymouth, New Zealand. "It used to be more. Most of the racetracks that have a grass course also have a stone dust main track, and if it rains they move right to it. The races on grass usually go slower, especially if it is soft, but if it is hard they can really go. Horses like the grass. The way the race goes mostly depends on the condition of the track, but the turf course at the Meadowlands looks in good shape and the track is big enough to accommodate a full field."

Although they are not represented in Friday night's race, Meadowlands-based trainers Mark Harder and Kelvin Harrison also recall racing on the turf down under.

"There was no grass courses to train on, unless you went to a county fair or something like that," said Harder, who was born in Wellington, New Zealand. "You basically had to wing it. The one thing you might want to do here for a turf race is tighten up the hobbles a bit. This would help prevent some slipping and sliding."

Harrison's home track in New Zealand held three days of all turf cards each year.

"There's not a whole lot of difference racing in the grass," explained Harrison, originally from Methuen, New Zealand. "The races go slower, but it's pretty standard. You take up the hobbles a bit. I wish I had one in the class to put in this week."

Nick Santagata, the track's all-time leading thoroughbred jockey in wins, has the most experience racing over the Meadowlands turf course. He is a proponent of racing over grass vs. dirt.

"I love racing on the turf," Santagata said. "If I could race every race on the turf I would. Nothing kicks back at you. It's a little bit tighter racing, the turns are wider. You can't lose ground and go wide though on the turf, or you'll get nothing. It's better on the horse, too. It doesn't sting their feet or jar them as much as the main track. The speed doesn't hold up as much as it does on the main track, so it makes for better racing for the fans."

All of the details for the turf race are listed below.

• Race 5, Friday, June 19
• $15,000 claiming pacers
PP, Horse, Driver, Trainer
1, Onedin Legacy N, Chris Ryder, Chris Ryder
2, Allamerican Champ, Donald Jacobs, Carrie Perry
3, Nicky Hanover N, Tim Tetrick, Carmine Fusco
4, Memory Book, Eric Abbatiello, Peter Kleinhans
5, Diamond Jack, Ron Pierce, Michael Posner
6, Armbro Dane, David Miller, Mark Kesmodel
7, Counterfeit Kiwi N, George Brennan, George Sholty
8, View To A Kill, Shaun Vallee, Shaun Vallee

(Meadowlands)

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