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More Bank At The Meadowlands

Published: August 12, 2019 8:53 am ET

Last Comment: August 17, 2019 9:45 pm ET | 5 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Although live racing at The Meadowlands is currently on hiatus, the quest to continue to improve the best product harness racing has to offer never sleeps.

Playing a large role in that pursuit of excellence is the competitiveness of the races, which is a compilation of many and various elements. Over the years harness racing has evolved into a speed-favouring sport with horses being able to win from off the pace becoming a far less frequent occurrence. Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural has long championed a more competitive style of racing and actively seeks answers to the question of how to make the track play more fairly to horses rallying from behind as they head into the stretch.

In a July meeting with the Meadowlands regular drivers, the case was made by several of them that if the track turns banked more steeply, it would reduce the momentum lost while racing on the outside through the final bend. European tracks were cited for their elevated turns and it was the opinion of those drivers that a more steeply-banked turn may allow the horses racing two- to three-wide to sustain and even gain speed as they come out of the turn and straighten up into the stretch.

Gural agreed at that meeting to bank the Meadowlands turns to the suggested angle. That task will be undertaken by track superintendent Ryan Napierala and his crew during the dark period and changes will be in place when live racing resumes.

"It's frustrating to see so many races won by horses that make the front early and hold up," said Gural. "I am always wanting the races to be more competitive and horses able to close into a win. The drivers said banking the turns would help, so I'm banking the turns. It should also make it easier on the horses as there won't be the stress on their legs as there is without much bank and maybe they won't tire as badly.

"I'm also hopeful this will remove another reason they use to give each other holes early in the races. Those 'professional courtesy' tucks change the complexion of the races completely. The drivers must recognize that they are accountable to more than just themselves and the people connected to the horse; they are also responsible to the bettor to give their horse the best chance to win. Just like everybody says, without the horseplayers there is no racing and I expect them to take this seriously."

The Meadowlands kicks off the Fall Meet on Oct. 11 with legs of the Kindergarten series followed by the TVG Fall Championships and the Fall Final Four.

(Meadowlands Racetrack)

August 17, 2019 - 9:45 pmThe other thing that seems

The other thing that seems like a favorable decision on all parts is the angled gait so that the outside horses can get that initial headstart to make up for the upcoming additional distance around the turn.

Trevor Otterson

August 16, 2019 - 9:49 pmI think an often overlooked

I think an often overlooked factor is the track itself. Banking the turns is great and will help competitiveness but when I want to mention is the concept that never seems to be mentioned, which is the stretch itself. Why have harness people never looked at why 7/8 mile tracks are just as fast or faster than mile tracks? It does not happen with smaller tracks or 5/8 aren't as fast as the 7/8's.

The answer is simple in that on a 7/8 mile track you have a long straight stretch to start and finish on. Outside positions are not so unfavorable as they are one other tracks as the horses on the outside can bolt out of there before the turns and find a position or keep on going. With the mile track, the outside positions still hit that turn too soon and then you are hooked or really have to use your horse too much to keep pushing.

Need more proof of the straight stretch effect. Check out the mile and eighth races at the Meadowlands. Horses from the outside routinely bust out to premium positions before the turns.

They also bust out fast as evident from the mostly straight stretch 24.4 quarter at Hoosier Park Dan Patch and still have low 25 second quarters coming home. Multiple horses and this can be seen at Mohawk as well. This can also be seen in the history as Lady Shadow comes to mind when she went 1:47 I believe for the mile, in the mile and eighth race at Meadowlands. Lather Up went another 1:46.3, once again off the top of my head, for the mile in the mile and eighth race. These times are seemingly faster for a reason, and I believe it is the long straight stretch to start and finish.

There is not much we can do with already constructed tracks but tracks wishing to go under renovations or new ones (which would be great for the industry) should consider this. What the mile tracks can include to make racing more competitive is various distance races at the mile and eighth distance, and not just have them for overflows in stake races. Keep the big races at the mile distances as fans love the speed shows but mix up every day racing. You may get "distance" specialists or "great closers" starting to win more often which is the goal. The second goal is to increase fans and wagering and these would also benefit by changing the handicapping for races.

Just a thought on an overlooked area of racing and handicapping.

August 12, 2019 - 11:24 pmMr. Gural, I appreciate the

Jim Brown SAID...

Mr. Gural, I appreciate the integrity you bring to racing and the levels of fair play. I think banking the turns is a good idea. What I would also like to see done to improve performance and more fairness are post position draws where a horse will draw one week from the inside posts, and the following week he would draw from the outside posts. I was a fan of the passing lane but this was only more utilized by one horse. Upgrading the passing lane to a three or four path opening it would create a more exciting finish in a race which would be more fan friendly and exciting for handicappers.

August 12, 2019 - 4:39 pmMr.Gural is GREAT for harness

Mr.Gural is GREAT for harness racing - he listens to his public and to the guys in the industry and tries to make racing better for everybody. I've been going to the races since I've been a kid, and that's a long time and I still think it's the GREATEST SPORT IN THE WORLD! But he seems like he cares so much about the sport and it's GREAT to see his passion for the sport I truly believe he saved the MEADOWLANDS and everybody in HARNESS RACING should thank GOD he cares so much!
P.S. PLUS the bet at the Meadowlands has never been better so he must be doing something right! KEEP IT UP MR.GURAL THANKS FOR SAVING THE MEADOWLANDS!!

August 12, 2019 - 1:05 pmI couldn't agree more. I

Dave Webber SAID...

I couldn't agree more. I actually have stopped attending harness racing as I've found it extremely boring. Maybe increased distances might help. I miss the old Greenwood days when you never felt out of it til they cross the wire. I would love the sport to get over the obsession with speed and get back to more entertaining racing. Maybe soften the track to slow down the times. Might extend a horse's racing career.

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