What a Warm-Up Act

It was two days after Independence Day, but on July 6, there were plenty of fireworks at The Meadowlands

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

If you were able to catch Saturday night’s racing (July 6) at The Meadowlands, it proved one thing; that no matter how good the other tracks are, when The Big M is primed with good horses, there is no better racetrack in North America.  Simply, the big mile is at its best when the best horses come to play on a Saturday night in North Jersey.

All it took was one race to know that it was going to be a special night.  In the Saturday lidlifter, a $21,000 race for non-winners of $17,500 in their last five, Heyden Hanover stopped the clock in 1:47 3/5.  The second race was the Preferred Handicap and that went in 1:49 1/5 to Joe Bongiorno and None Bettor A.  This was just the warm-up act; but as I watched, I knew something big might be in store in the muggy North Jersey air.

The card featured two Graduate finals—one for pacers, one for trotters—as well as two Meadowlands Pace eliminations, three divisions of the Reynolds for trotters and the fourth leg of the Mr. Muscleman trot.  In all, the 11-race card featured $805,499 in total purses.

The marquee races were the two Graduate Finals for 4-year old trotters and pacers.  In the trot, 2019 Hambletonian champion Atlanta struggled early, sitting in sixth at the half and then fifth at three-quarters.  Not surprisingly, Ake Svanstedt had Six Pack on the lead heading home, but the superfilly, Atlanta, was able to go wide and win by the tip of the nose in 1:49.1, the fastest trotting mile in Meadowlands history.  Her last quarter of 26 3/5 was something to be seen.

The Graduate Pacing Final saw Lather Up make history when he took command late and won in 1:46. That equals the fastest mile in harness racing history, tying Always B Miki who also ran 1:46 at The Red Mile in October, 2016. One day, we will see a pacer run 1:45-something and as Cosmo Castorini said In Moonstruck, “that will be one crazy day.”

The race was blistering from the get-go. When you see a 25 3/5 –a time that Thoroughbreds sometimes run—opening quarter, it was clear that it was game on.  Always a Prince was the leader and he followed that up with a no-breather 26 2/5 second quarter.  When they hit three-quarters in 1:19 1/5, you knew there was a chance that the record could be equaled, or at the very least, a final time under 1:47.  Always a Prince hung in gamely, but settled for fourth, with This Is The Plan and Backstreet Shadow finishing behind the Clyde Francis trained, Montrell Teague driven son of I’m Gorgeous.

The Meadowlands Pace drew 15 entrants for 2019 and two eliminations were held to determine the field for next Saturday’s $650,000 final.  In heat one, Captain Crunch seized control early to win in a “ho-hum” 1:48 3/5, while Bettor’s Wish took the second heat in 1:49 1/5. The field for next Saturday with the post positions.

  1. Captain Crunch
  2. Escapetothebeach
  3. Captain Ahab
  4. Bettors Wish
  5. Hurrikane Emperor
  6. Reigning Deo
  7. Best in Show
  8. US Captain
  9. Working ona Mystery
  10. Captain Trevor

As good as the July 6 racing was, I have a feeling the next act—Meadowlands Pace Night—might have something even more special in store.

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