by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
The inaugural $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot is slated to run this Friday at Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, MA with a 6:40 scheduled post time. The field may not be spectacular, but it certainly is solid and we could get a fast time on the speedy 5/8 mile track (sub 1:50?).
The 2016 International Trot winner, Resolve, is entered and despite a nice win in the Cutler earlier at The Meadowlands, has struggled to close in recent starts. The same can be said for Obrigado. He’s a millionaire, but he, too, has lacked the finishing kick that many of us saw in 2016. Still, these are two excellent trotters and Plainridge officials have to be pleased to see them entered in their inaugural race.
Crazy Wow may be the hottest horse in the race and has the Charlie Hill Memorial Trot at Scioto Downs and the Cleveland Trotting Classic at Northfield Park in his win column. In the Classic, he came from third in the stretch to overtake both Resolve (2nd) and Obrigado (3rd). He also beat Obrigado in the Hill Memorial, so if I had to guess, I have to believe that Obrigado has revenge on his mind this Friday. Scioto has a 5/8 mile track while Northfield has a half-mile and all of these horses have experience running on tracks of varying length.
“Wow” comes to Plainville with lifetime earnings of over $1.8 million–second to Resolve who has banked over $2.3 million. Others entered are Trolley, Maestro Blue Chip, JL Cruze, Wind of the North, Hannelore Hanover and Cufflink Hanover.
Hannelore Hanover, the mare, may be the best of them all. Trained by Ron Burke, she is coming off a stupendous 2016 season, and recently ran 1:50.3 in the Miss Versatility at the Meadowlands on July 15. In 2016, she won the Breeders Crown and the TVG Free For All, so she certainly knows where the finish line is.
The Spirit is the feature of course, but track officials also did the sport right by offering a some bigger purse races for those loyal to the track. There is the $20,000 “Two If By Sea,” trot for New England horses that have made at least eight starts at Plainridge as well as a $20,000 “One If By Land,” pace for horses with at least 10 starts there. A $25,000 Open trot, dubbed the “The Old North Church,” features Gural Hanover, who just set a Saratoga season best of 1:54 last Saturday. Local favorite Mambo Lindy with five wins and two seconds in seven starts is also entered. There is also an amateur driving race on the card–something for everybody.
What this tells me is that officials at the park care about harness racing and not just the casino. It’s always nice to establish a big purse, big name race, but adding some other feature races means that the track is putting itself out there and trying to make a name for itself. That isn’t easy with so many harness tracks across the country, but Plainridge is making strides. Officials also want a clean trot, too, requiring horses for the Spirit to be in the detention barn by 10 pm Thursday night. That might not prevent cheating, but there will be no race day shenanigans at the very least.
Friday is big day for Plainridge Park, the state of Massachusetts, and of course, the horses! May the “Spirit” be with you.
Contact John Furgele at firstname.lastname@example.org