13-races, 9 stakes races, $2.6 million in purses highlight Meadowlands Pace night.
by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
The big race this week is Saturday’s $682,500 Meadowlands Pace. Ten of the best 3-year old pacers will vie for the top prize in what is the richest pacing race in the United States. Captain Crunch, who won the richest race in North America when he captured the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park is your morning-line favorite. The scheduled post time is 10:06 pm ET.
As good as the Pace will be the rest of the card is spectacular. There are many things that Harness racing does wrong, but putting together big race cards is not one of them. This is particularly true at The Meadowlands. No race card is better than the one on Hambletonian Day, where 10 of the 16 races are stakes, but Pace Night comes close. There are 13 races carded with nine of them carrying purses of at least $100,000
The Hambletonian Maturity is for 4-year old trotters. All eyes will be on Atlanta, the superfilly, and 2018 Hambletonian champion. She looks poised and ready and last week, trotted home in 1:49.1 at The Big M, a track she has taken a liking to. Because there are 11 entered, the race will be contested at 1 1/8, a distance that I love. We know Atlanta likes to go out hard and it will be interesting to see how both she and driver Yannick Gingras handle the extra furlong.
Six Pack will provide a stiff challenge. Trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt, it would surprise no one if this one cuts the early fractions. Svanstedt is an unconventional driver who usually sees that quirkiness pay off in big races at The Big M.
If you like older horses (and I love them), the race that will get the blood going is the William Haughton Memorial. This one features a $423,000 purse, 12 horses and 1 1/8 miles. Last year’s Horse of the Year, McWicked, drew post six for driver Brian Sears and trainer Casie Coleman and even though McWicked 1-1-2 in his four starts this year, he hasn’t been as sharp. This might be his 2019 coming out party.
Lather Up is the horse to watch. Last week, he tied the world record for the fastest mile ever run by a Standardbred when he stopped the clock in 1:46 in the Graduate Series final at the Meadowlands. This week, the question is simple—did he empty his tank last week or was that the just the start of what could be a special season for the Clyde Francis trained colt?
Ron Burke has three horses—Filibuster Hanover, Dorsoduro Hanover and This Is The Plan–none of which can be overlooked. Of the three, This Is The Plan seems to be firing best and will certainly not be afraid to trade punches with the aforementioned Lather Up and McWicked.
Another race going 1 1/8 miles is the $179,550 Golden Girls, an open mare pace. Shartin N might be the best horse in training right now. She takes no prisoners, loves the Big M and might decide to put on a show Saturday night. Caviart Ally is formidable, but I’m expecting Shartin N to grab the headlines in this one.
The $207,700 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year old pacers drew a field of 11 for 1 1/8 miles with Warrawee Ubeat the tepid 3-1 favorite. Stonebridge Soul comes in as the leading money winner with $230,476 in earnings. This is race that bettors will love, because there is no clear-cut favorite, which could result in a handsome payoff.
It will be interesting to see how the track plays. The first race is a $22,500 pace for non-winners of $20,000 in their last five starts with some also eligible conditions as well. There are some good, tough horses in the field with Trump Nation, Wheels On Fire, Heyden Hanover, Miso Fast, and Ocean Colony.
Why am I bringing this up on a night filled with all-star races? Because it’s the first race and last week, Heyden Hanover, in a race of similar conditions blazed home in 1:47 3/5 to set the stage for what would turn out to be an historical night of racing.
Seven of the 10 horses in race 1 have broken 1:50 for the mile and if the winner of this race clocks 1:48 or faster, it could once again be game on when the better horses step onto the track. Like last week, the first race could set the tone for the remainder of the night.
The 43rd renewal of the Meadowlands Pace should be a great one. Post time is 7:15 pm ET. You might want to take an afternoon nap if you plan on watching all 13 races. Race 13 is scheduled for 11:15 pm ET, but in the land of post-drags, it might be much later. A nap between 4 and 6 pm could certainly help.