Plainridge Park Captures the Spirit

Inaugural trot a success

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

They pulled it off.  Plainridge Park, for years, just another harness track decided that on Friday, July 28, 2017, they were going to step it up a notch by hosting a world class race for trotters.  To do this, they offered a $250,000 purse for any trotter and their respective connections willing to head to Plainville, MA to be one of the nine to enter.  The eight trotters—Maestro Blue Chip scratched– were greeted by a record live crowd who came ready to wager. On a normal day, per race handle at Plainridge ranges from $13,000 to $20,000, but for the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot, the handle was well over $76,000.

The race was a good one.  Crazy Wow gunned it from the start to set the pace.  He was quickly joined by Resolve, the 2016 International Trot winner, who was trying to get back in the win column after faltering late in recent races.  Together, they ripped through an opening quarter of 26.1.  The mare, Hannelore Hanover was third and a stalking JL Cruze was fourth on the inside.  After hitting the half in 53.4 and the three-quarters in 1:22, they turned for home.  By now, both Crazy Wow and Resolve were tiring and the stalking JL Cruze came up the pylons to score at 60 to 1 in a track record time of 1:51.2, which abolished the 1:52.1 record that Gural Hanover set in the race before. The Bay Staters dismissed the 6-year-old gelding by Topcat, but for those who stood by him, the reward was a handsome $123.60 win payoff on a $2 bet.  Hannelore Hanover got up for second; Crazy Wow hung on for third.

The 5/8 mile track at Plainridge is conducive to fast times and they appear committed to offering quality harness racing going forward.  The Trot was a resounding success; now, let’s see if Plainridge can keep the momentum going.  I would love to see the track offer another big race, perhaps one for pacers with a similar purse.  Does the “Massachusetts Pace,” sound appealing?  Is mid-October, when fall foliage is at its peak seem like the opportune time to schedule this?  This certainly doesn’t have to happen now or even in 2018, but I’m sure racing officials are studying the idea.  The Spirit announcement was released in March, and four months later, the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot was contested, proving that it can done and done in a relatively short time.

For someone like me, the anticipation of a big race gets the blood pumping.  We all know that the sport survives on open paces and trots; races for non-winners of $4,500 and for winners of over $20,000, but when you see a race that offers a six-figure purse, or in this case, a $250,000 purse, you’re going to pay attention and those that cover the sport are going to pay attention. When the race is over, the story hits online sites like The Daily Racing Form that night, not the next day.  Within an hour, a quick google search led me to two websites that had a brief account of the action.  The New England papers might even put a small blurb in their next day’s paper touting the race. That’s what the sport needs—attention—and nothing garners it faster than a big race with a big purse and of course, the star horses. And, to make it better, the race was won by a 60 to 1 shot that paid big.  That’s what makes people raise their eyebrows; the eyebrows of intrigue.

The Spirit of Massachusetts Trot didn’t put Plainridge Park on the map—it already was—but it certainly moved it up a few rungs on the last Friday in July. Let’s see some more; sooner than later.

 

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