Bob “Hollywood” Heyden ranks Art Official’s upset of Somebeachsomewhere in 2008 as his greatest Meadowlands Pace moment.
Heyden has seen them all, as a fan and as the Meadowlands Racetrack’s statistician, television personality and unofficial historian.
Heyden, inducted in the Communicator’s Corner of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame last weekend, took a look back in the days before the 2013 Meadowlands Pace unfolds on Saturday night.
Captaintreacherous could be the next Pace legend with a mark of 13-1-1 in 15 starts against nine rivals in the latest renewal of the Meadowlands Racetrack’s signature event.
The Pace is a prize that requires extraordinary effort, as was the case with Heyden’s top Pace memory.
Like Captaintreacherous, Somebeachsomewhere was an overwhelming favourite heading into The Pace. A perfect 10-for-10, Somebeachsomewhere was the 1-10 favourite to keep that streak going.
Art Official and driver Ron Pierce had other ideas, nipping the heavy favourite by a neck in 1:47, the mark that still stands as the Pace record.
“Pierce drove a great race, forcing the undefeated Somebeachsomewhere wide at the half and beyond to secure the top,” Heyden said. “He then stalked the favourite until the stretch and then edged out to go by.
“The end-to-end action and a huge favourite getting beat in his lone career loss provided all the ingredients you want in one of the best, if not the greatest, race ever in Meadowlands history.”
Pierce will be bidding for a fifth Pace win on Saturday with Resistance Futile, 20-1.
Heyden went further back for his next Pace memory to 1985, and Nihilator.
It was an annihilation. Nihilator cruised to a seven and a quarter length win with Bill O’Donnell at the lines for Bill Haughton, a teaming of Hall of Famers.
“He secured the Horse of the Year title on this day and never looked back,” Heyden said. “He used the Meadowlands Pace as more of a statement than anything else.”
Precious Bunny shattering the 1:50 barrier in the Pace is Heyden’s third moment. He tripped the timer in 1:49.4 in 1991, beating Artsplace by two lengths as another odds-on favourite lost in the Pace.
Heyden then went all the way back to the beginning, to Escort’s victory in the inaugural Meadowlands Pace in 1977.
Largely overlooked in a field that included BGs Bunny, Nat Lobell and Crash, Escort and trainer/driver Carl LeCause kicked off a new era of big-money stakes and hard-hitting action at The Meadowlands.
Finally, Heyden calls Sonsam’s 1979 victory “the most electrifying win” in the 36 editions of the Meadowlands Pace.
“Sonsam was a supremely talented colt who didn't always behave himself and occasionally blew up,” Heyden said. “But when he was on his game, there was nothing like it. He swept past the field from post 10 three and four-deep and kept on going, pulling clear of Hot Hitter in, at the time, a world record 1:53.2.”
Fresh Pace memories will unfold Saturday night during a spectacular 14-race card that begins at 7:15 p.m. Gates open at 5 p.m. with free admission and t-shirts for all fans, while supplies last.
This will be the final Pace at the grandstand where the race originated. The New Meadowlands Racetrack, currently under construction across from the existing building, will open on Nov. 23.