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Big M Meet Ends On Hambo High Note

Published: August 11, 2018 12:10 pm ET

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A big Hambletonian Day crowd of better than 18,000 was on hand Saturday (Aug. 4) at the Meadowlands and what they witnessed were several pieces of history to go along with plenty of upsets along the way.

Team Zeron -- trainer-dad Rick and driver-son Scott -- combined to take the 93rd Hambo with superfilly Atlanta, who became the first female to take harness racing’s most storied event since Continentalvictory in 1996.

On his final Hambletonian Day before retirement, trainer Jimmy Takter maintained his stranglehold on the Hambo’s sister event, the Hambletonian Oaks for fillies. Manchego gave Takter and his go-to driver Yannick Gingras five straight Oaks victories as Takter extended his record for all-time Oaks wins to eight.

Of the 16 races on Hambo Day, eight had odds-on favourites, with only one of those (Shartin N in the Lady Liberty) managing to hit the finish line first. Among the prohibitive choices to taste defeat were Kissin In The Sand (Shady Daisy), Hannelore Hanover (John Cashman Memorial), Ariana G (Dr. John R. Steele Memorial) and Meadowlands Pace winner Courtly Choice (Cane Pace).

BETTING WITH BOTH HANDS: The upsets did not deter the betting public one bit. On-track wagering on the Hambo Day card was just shy of $1.1 million, with live, export and separate pool wagering totaling a little more than $7 million.

The breakdown:

a. Live: $1,084,762
b. Export: $4,582,957
c. Total: $5,667,720 (Commingled Pools)
d. Separate Pool Wagering Totals: $1,366,727
e. Total live, export and separate pool: $7,034,447

In fact, during a meeting where the race office battled week in and week out to fill race cards, the Meadowlands -- by far the harness racing industry’s handle leader despite numbers that were down from last year -- was the only North American track to surpass the $3 million (three times), $4 million (Meadowlands Pace) and $5 million (Hambletonian Day) single-card handle plateaus thus far during 2018. The only other track to reach the $3 million mark was Woodbine Mohawk Park, where $3.9 million was wagered on North America Cup Night.

“Despite many challenges, such as a seemingly endless cold winter and an entry box that many times lacked support, we had a decent meeting nonetheless,” said Jason Settlemoir, the track’s chief operating officer and general manager. “Our loyal fan base stayed with us throughout the meeting, and for that, all of us at the Meadowlands are very appreciative. The meeting not only saw great racing, but the opening of our Fanduel SportsBook @ Victory Sports Bar on Meadowlands Pace Night, and it has been a big hit with our fans. We are cautiously optimistic about the future here at the Meadowlands Racetrack.”

MAROHN, BURKE TOP DASH-WINNERS: Jim Marohn Jr. finished the 2017-18 Big M season as the top dash-winning driver with 94 trips to victory lane. Gingras, whose 76 wins were good for second-best, was the top money-earning driver with $2.9 million, almost double that of runner-up Scott Zeron ($1.5 million).

Ron Burke led the way in training wins (69) and was second in money earned ($2.1 million) while Takter was second in wins (39) and tops in money ($2.8 million).

NEXT UP, THE RUNNERS: Monmouth Park will conduct the end of its meeting at the Meadowlands when thoroughbred racing comes to the mile oval. The dates for the brief six-card meeting of racing over the Big M grass course are Sept. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 and 29. Post time is 7:00 p.m.

HARNESS RETURNS OCT. 12: The 2018-2019 Meadowlands harness meeting kicks off on Friday, Oct. 12. Racing will be conducted on a Friday-Saturday basis through the end of November. During December, there will be racing Thursday-Saturday, with one exception. There will be no racing on Saturday, Dec. 15. Post time will be the usual 7:15 p.m.


PHOTO: Driver Scott Zeron gets cozy with the Hambletonian trophy he won on Saturday (Aug. 4) at the Meadowlands after guiding the filly Atlanta to victory in the 93rdHambletonian. (Credit: Lisa Photo)

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