20th season begins Monday
by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
It is on. Now that April is here, the winter racing season has officially ended. From now through October, the harness racing season is in full bloom. Horses that were rested over the winter are now preparing to run. Evidence of that comes with Pinkman, the 2015 Hambletonian winner, who makes his ’19 debut in the Preferred Trot at the Meadowlands.
On Monday, Plainridge Park kicks off its 108 day racing season with a nice 10-race card. The lidlifter is a $12,000 pace for 6-year olds and younger that have not won more than six races lifetime. Passport Art comes in with eight races– two wins, two seconds, and one third under his belt to go along with $14,570 in 2019 earnings. Listed as the 6-5 favorite he will be driven by veteran Shawn Gray.
Plainridge is also using Trackmaster to write some of its races and there are two on the Monday card. Race 9 will run for $5,800 and is open to horses and geldings that have a TM rating of 74 or less. If you haven’t won a race in 2019, you can enter with a TM of 78 or less. Race 10 is a TM race for horses that have a rating of 70 or less; 73 or less for non-winners in 2019.
As we have discussed before, some like using Trackmaster, some don’t. For some racing secretaries, it takes some skill and thought out of writing races, but others see using the Trackmaster ratings as a way of keeping horses of similar ability classed together. Freehold racing director Karen Fagliarone has just started writing some races using Trackmaster. Perhaps a mix of both TM and tradition might suffice going forward.
For those struggling to understand, Trackmaster is like the Beyer Speed figures in thoroughbred racing. I don’t know how they are computed, but horses run and some type of formula is used to calculate a TM rating. A 1:56 mile on the half-mile track at Buffalo might not be rated the same as a 1:56 mile on the half-mile track at Yonkers. Of course, the 1:51 mile on a 5/8 mile track might not rate as good as a 1:53 mile on a 1/2 mile track. Thankfully, there are computer wizards who can figure all this out so races can be written.
Plainridge also has a nice Open Handicap Pace for $15,000 with six entered in the mile pace. Dapper Dude comes in with five wins and four seconds in 10 starts to go along with $61,900 in the bank account. The six entrants have combined to make 38 starts in 2019. The Monday card has $97,700 in total purses.
Plainridge will run Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays for much of the year. There are six Sunday cards—July 28, September 29 and then October 6, 13, 20, and 27. The July 28 card is the big one of the year as the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot returns. The trot debuted in 2017, but was not run last year. In addition to that race, the $100,000 Clara Barton Pace will be also run on that Sunday. The 2019 calendar can be found here.
The 5/8 mile track can yield some fast times. The fastest pace belongs to Maltese Artist who stopped the clock in 1:49.2 back on September 5, 2005 while the fastest trot belongs to JL Cruze who clocked 1:51.2 to win that inaugural Spirit of Massachusetts Trot back on July 28, 2017. And, just for nice, JL Cruze won that race at odds of 60-1. Here are the track records.
Unlike many states, Plainridge is the only horse track in the Bay State, so the horse colony should remain strong throughout the 2019 season which ends on Black Friday, November 29.
Post time for April, May and June will be 4 pm.