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Huge Meadowlands Weekend Ahead

Published: July 12, 2018 2:22 pm ET

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Meadowlands Pace night has been billed as the ‘Greatest Party in Harness Racing,’ and the 2018 edition promises to live up to that tag line both on and off the track.

Post time on Saturday will be at 6:35 p.m.

‘Pace’ weekend will begin with a busy Friday night card. The $350,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes (NJSS) freshman finals will hold centre stage and will be supported by four Kindergarten legs; a Pick 5 Guaranteed pool of $100,000, buoyed by a $28,976 carryover; and the mandatory payout of the last race Jackpot Super Hi-5 pool, currently at $276,939, that could well enter seven-figure territory by post time.

The $75,000 NJSS pacing finals will be led by Hurrikane Emperor, who has dominated the pacing colts in each leg. He will meet the same three rivals on Friday (non-betting event at 6:15 p.m.) for trainer John McDermott and owners Jonathan Klee Racing, Kuhen Racing, Pegasis Invst Group, and G. Vierno.

Molly Dooker is an even-money morning line choice in the filly race for the Visionary Breeders of NJ, who turns out to be trainer Tony Alagna. She jogged in last week's leg and finished her 1:54.1 mile with a :27.1 final quarter for driver Brett Miller to win by more than four lengths.

The NJSS trotting finals are both full of exciting prospects – ten in each $125,000 race, in fact.

The fillies will contest Race 5, where sires Father Patrick and Trixton, who are represented by 19 of the 20 finalists, have the two logical favorites.

Whispering Oaks, by Father Patrick, was a Leg 1 winner in 1:55.4 largely due to the talents of her driver, Yannick Gingras. The filly raced greenly while Gingras kept her not only on stride, but on course to get the win in the last step. Jimmy Takter trains Whispering Oaks for Brixton Medical, Herb Liverman and R A W Equine, Inc.

Mother Bonnie scored her win in Leg 2 for Andy McCarthy, as he trotted to a national season's best of 1:55. The Trixton lass is a Robert McNerney and Hauser Brothers Racing homebred from the Noel Daley stable.

The result of the colt final will largely depend on the state of mind that the enigmatic Greenshoe brings into the race. The son of Father Patrick has exhibited extreme talent, as he won a baby race in 1:55 on June 2, but has also demonstrated a fractious side, which led to him going off stride at the start of his Leg 1 appearance, only to make a sensational recovery and win the race in 1:56.2. Brian Sears has the assignment to keep Greenshoe to task for trainer Marcus Melander and owner Courant, Inc.

On Saturday night, the eight Grand Circuit stakes will be led by the $701,800 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace (Race 8), clearly one of the most competitive in the 42-year history of the stakes.

O'Brien Award winner Stay Hungry (Doug McNair), owned by Brad Grant and the late Irwin Samelman, and Courtly Choice, who races for the interests of Hutt Racing, Mac & Heim Stable, Daniel Plouffe and Touch Stone Stable, supplemented to the race at a cost of more than $62,000, won last week's elimination races and have the favourite's target on their backs.

Alagna will send out three for the final, including the aforementioned Stay Hungry, the season's fastest sophomore in American History (Yannick Gingras drives for Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz and American History Racing) who was second in the Courtly Choice elim, and Babes Dig Me (Brett Miller for Grant, Joe Sbrocco, Robert LeBlanc and In The Gym).

Courtly Choice carries the hopes of trainer Blake MacIntosh and partners who backed their talented colt with a large cheque to give him a shot at the title. He also offers Hall of Fame driver David Miller one of his best chances to win the Pace, something he has yet to do.

The supporting card is nothing short of amazing with the $405,000 Hambletonian Maturity for four-year-olds bringing harness racing's newest diva, Ariana G, back to the track just one week removed from her brilliant world record 1:50.2 demolition of many of these same rivals in last Saturday's Graduate final. Gingras has the drive on her for Takter and owners Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.

A dozen talented debutantes will contest the sophomore pacing filly Mistletoe Shalee stakes (Race 5). The stakes will be led by Kissin In The Sand (Scott Zeron), who is trained by Nancy Johansson for Marvin Katz and Bud Hatfield Stable, who turned heads with a gritty uncovered masterpiece in the Lynch Memorial final a fortnight past.

The WR Haughton Memorial (Race 10) for older horses and Golden Girls (race 9) for their female counterparts also drew overflow fields of 12 with all of the stars of the division present.

McWicked (Brian Sears), as sharp as he's ever been at age seven for Casie Coleman and owner SSG Stable, will be the choice in the Haughton off his bruising win in the Ben Franklin.

Shartin N (Tim Tetrick) has dominated the pacing mares in 2018, having won all of the major stakes thus far for owners Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney King. She'll be the strong public choice in the Golden Girls. Jim King Jr. trains.

Note that all 12 horse fields will race at a distance of a mile and one eighth.

Also on the Pace card are the final preps for the upcoming Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks, which are set to be raced on Saturday, August 4.

The top colts are all counted among the 16 entered for the $362,000 (divided) Stanley Dancer Memorial (Races 4 and 6), with several among them rounding into Hambo form at the perfect time and others still looking for answers.

The $257,000 Del Miller Memorial split into a pair of sevens (Race 3 and 11) with a few of those fillies holding hopes of the main event come Hambletonian Day, depending on their performance and that of the colts racing in the Dancer.

How might one begin a card such as this?

The Meadowlands will kick the evening off with a pair of Miss Versatility divisions for the finest aged trotting mares around, among them 2018 Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover (Yannick Gingras), who has been flawless thus far in the new season.

Off the track there's a ton going on, with the always-popular Pace T-shirt giveaway, the $500 win wager promotion, and a BBQ contest along with various activities for the family.

For the horseplayer, Pace Night is one of the highlights each season, with big pools and the horizontal guarantees have been increased accordingly. The Pick 5 is guaranteed at $40,000 and the Pick 4 hiked to $75,000 for the evening. Free program pages are available on the Meadowlands website.

Pace night is always a highlight of the racing season and this year the experience is one you'll want to be a part of.

Remember, post time is 6:35 p.m.


With a pair of wagers sporting carryovers that promise to offer huge pools and likely payoffs to match, a signature stakes event that offers a purse of $701,830, and the long-awaited birth of the sports betting era, this weekend will be one to remember at the Meadowlands.

First up is Friday, which has a first-race post time of 7:15 p.m.

For just the second time in 2018, the 50-Cent Pick-5 sports a carryover ($28,976), which is significant, because the last carryover – one that was nearly identical to the current one – served as the catalyst for a final pool of over $250,000.

Track management has put a guarantee on the pool of $100,000, but the final tally figures to be far more than that. The wager offers a low 15 per cent takeout and will be offered on races three through seven.

Based on last weekend, the track’s signature 50-Cent Pick-4 (races eight through 11) is likely to have an overflow pool once again, one that far exceeds the guarantee of $50,000. Last Friday (July 6) and Saturday (July 7), the pools surpassed the $100,000 mark for the first time since mid-May, averaging just a tad more than $110,000.

The Late 20-Cent Jackpot Super High-Five pool, which should push past the seven-figure mark given the carryover of $276,939, will be available on the 13th and final race of the evening. Instead of one needing to be the only holder of a winning ticket to take down the jackpot, the wager has a mandatory payout Friday, meaning that all of those with winning combinations will take home a slice of the pie. And that slice figures to be a hefty one.

In the event the final pool is $1 million, it breaks down this way:

• Carryover -- $276,939
• New money -- $723,061
• Fifteen per cent takeout on new money -- $108,459
• Total payout -- $891,541
• Surplus to winners -- $168,480

Thus, a final pool of $1 million creates an enormous windfall for those who cash winning JSH5 tickets, giving them a 23 per cent advantage.

The United States Trotting Association will partner with the ‘Big M’ on all guaranteed pool totals.

A little less than 12 hours after Friday’s last race, an historic Saturday gets underway at the mile oval.

At 11 a.m., bettors will be able to place Las Vegas-style wagers on professional sports events. Action on Major League Baseball, World Cup Soccer, the National Football League, college football, etc. will be offered. If one was accustomed to betting on those events on the Vegas Strip, they will be able to now bet them at the Big M.

“This promises to be one of the most exciting weekends ever for our fans,” said Big M chief operating officer and general manager Jason Settlemoir. “In addition to a star-studded Saturday stakes card that includes our signature event, the Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace, the ability to offer our patrons the chance to also bet on professional sports is a game-changer. All of us at the Meadowlands are extremely excited and hope all of our patrons take at least a few minutes to visit our new Fanduel Sports Book at Victory Sports Bar.”

Saturday evening’s live card of harness racing gets underway at 6:35 p.m. and offers a ‘Murderer’s Row’ of stakes events: The $701,830 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace for three-year-old open pacers, $405,850 Hambletonian Maturity for four-year-old open trotters, $191,800 Mistletoe Shalee for three-year-old fillies on the pace, $189,750 Golden Girls for filly and mare pacers three-years-old-and-up, $257,000 Del Miller Memorial for three-year-old fillies on the trot (divisions), $362,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial for three-year-old open trotters (divisions) and $471,100 William Haughton Memorial for open pacers three-years-old-and-up.

On what promises to be the biggest night of the year in terms of handle, two treats for players await: the 50-Cent Pick-5 (races three through seven) will have a guaranteed pool of $40,000 while the 50-Cent Pick-4 (races eight through 11) has a $75,000 guarantee. Both bets are likely to have pools that double (and possibly more) the promised amounts.

(Meadowlands Racetrack)

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