Laboring On Labour Day Weekend

Two big ones north of the 49th

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

As Labor Day weekend approaches, many Americans will enjoy an extra day to celebrate  the end of summer, the kids heading back to school, the start of the college football season and so on and so forth. Here’s hoping if you’re reading this, you will get the chance to relax and enjoy.

It’s called Labor Day for a reason and there will be some top-notch horses doing some serious laboring over the weekend.

The focus is to the North where Woodbine Mohawk Park will host two big races on Saturday—the Maple Leaf Trot and the Canadian Pacing Derby.

Why should you watch the Maple Leaf Trot?

For starters, it’s a big race, many of the best trotters are running.  That includes 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta.  She will start behind gate 10 on the 7/8 mile Mohawk track and is looking to get back on track after a couple of less than stellar performances. She is listed at 9-2 in the morning line, which indicates that the oddsmakers no longer find her invincible.

Marion Marauder, the 2016 Trotting Triple Crown winner is in the field.  He is owned by Canadians, so he should be the hometown favorite if you will.  He’s still formidable at age 6 and it looks like he will keep running.  The goal was to retire him to stud duty and that was tried in 2017, but the colt didn’t take to it so it was decided to put him back on the track and thus far, that has paid some handsome dividends.

The others are all good runners—Crystal Fashion, Manchego, Guardian Angel As, Speeding Spur, Dancing Hall, Dream Together, Emoticon Hanover and Six Pack running for a very nice purse of 600k.

When the smoke clears—-Guardian Angel As will visit the Winner’s Circle.

Why should you watch the Canadian Pacing Derby?

For one reason—Lather Up.  He and Shartin N are the best horses in North America and there’s a clear line that separates them from the rest.  Not only does Lather Up win, he romps and runs blazing times for added beauty.  He should like the Mohawk surface and if he brings it, they won’t touch him.

That said, Jimmy Freight is running well and his best might be good enough to pull the upset. McWicked, the reigning Horse of the Year is also running and while he hasn’t been as good in 2019, he is running better now after a slow start.  His problem is that he has been running against Lather Up and when that happens, the best you can hope for is second.  He showed how tough he is when he won the Gerrity Memorial Pace at Saratoga in July and any time an 8-year old can race well against the younger bucks, it’s worth a watch.

This Is The Plan will leave from the one post.  I’ve been high on him.  He’s a good one and he may be ready to breakthrough.  In addition to these three, the other five are Done Well, Western Fame, Courtly Choice, Filibuster Hanover, Casimir Richie P.

When the smoke clears—-Lather Up—again.  Keep your eye on the clock as well.  If he runs his race, I expect see a sub 1:48 and would not be surprised to see a sub 1:47 either.  The track record is 1:46.4.

The undercard features the $171,503 Simcoe Stakes for 3-year old pacers and while it doesn’t attract the top billing, it should be a very good race.  There are three heavyweights in the seven race field led by Meadowlands Pace winner Best in Show, Cane Pace winner Captain Crunch and the always tough Century Farroh.

Some of you may be wondering (and wishing) why the first two horses aren’t running in the Canadian Pacing Derby.  The answer is that the Simcoe is restricted to 3-year olds and the connections figure that they will have plenty of opportunities to face older horses in the future.

In sum, it’s a great day and card for Woodbine Mohawk Park.  In addition to the Maple Leaf Trot, the Canadian Pacing Derby and the Simcoe, there are three divisions of the Ontario Sire Stakes for 2-year old colts and geldings with each race carrying a $73,000 plus purse.  All in all, the total purses are $1,621,503 for the 11 races with 96 horses entered.

The track, after splitting dates with Woodbine now is the premier home for harness racing in Ontario and Canada for that matter.  They race year-round and in October will host the 2019 Breeders Crown races. Saturday post time is 7:10 pm ET

 

 

Dan Patch, Milstein Paces Follow The Week After

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

It’s a weekend highlighted by two paces, as well as Yonkers making some trotters work a bit longer to earn their money.

Hoosier Park grabs the Friday spotlight when it hosts the Dan Patch Pace with nine very talented horses entered.  The headliner is none other than Lather Up, who this year, has brought the clock its respective knees.  He has run 1:46, which ties him with Always B Miki for the fastest mile ever run by a Standardbred and last week, in the Sam McKee Memorial, clocked 1:59.2 for 1 1/8 at The Meadowlands.  One has to think that one of these days, he will have an off race, but that hasn’t been the case in 2019.

Can anybody beat him?  Well, it is harness racing, so the answer is yes, but Lather Up should do well at Hoosier, a first class facility with a 7/8 mile track.  The field has some good names in it, but because Lather Up has been dominant, the field’s winning percentage is on the low side.  Reigning Horse of the Year McWicked—third to Lather Up last week—is running as is Jimmy Freight, who has earned $172,454 in this year.

If Lather Up doesn’t win, that’s a story.  A big story.

The other big pace takes place Saturday at Northfield Park in Ohio.  It’s the annual Carl Milstein Pace which runs for $400,000.  The Milstein has seen a resurgence since switching to an invitation race a few years back and this year, the field is headlined by the Adios winner, Southwind Ozzi.  He does have to overcome the 8 post, so we should see Ozzi leave right at the start to get the lead and settle in.  After that, the rest of the field can take their shots and see what happens.

It’s a good field and overall, is deeper and more accomplished than those running in the Dan Patch.  In addition to Southwind Ozzi, American Mercury, Century Farroh, and Working Ona Mystery have all earned over $200k this year, and one, Bettor’s Wish has banked $624,544 due to his second place finish in the Meadowlands Pace. The 3 post makes him the morning line favorite at 5-2.

On Sunday, Tioga offers the Joiedevie, for older trotters.  Last year’s Hambletonian winner, Atlanta is entered as are Plunge Blue Chip and Manchego.  Atlanta has won six of seven, but was beaten soundly in her last race.  The race has a $132,000 purse.

The $148,000 Crawford runs right before the Joiedevie and the field of six is solid, but far from spectacular.  There is nothing wrong with Pinkman, Mission Accepted, The Veteran, Run Director, Fiftydallarbill and Speeding Spur, but they are now second-tier horses.  No shame of course, but these fine horses have all lost a step in recent years.

Finally, Yonkers is running a trot at 1 1/16 miles.  The field of 10 will run for 24k and the field features some solid performers, including Barry Black who has done most of his racing internationally and comes to Yonkers with over 68k in earnings.

It may be the week after the biggest week of the year, but there is still plenty of good racing out there and as they say; something for everyone.

O Canada: Forbidden Trade Pulls Upset in Hambletonian

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

EAST RUTHERFORD—That’s why they race.  When you go to the Meadowlands for Hambletonian Day, one of the great things about being there is the race day analysis that is provided and piped over the loudspeakers.  The Meadowlands produces its own coverage and on Hambo Day, they used Gabe Prewitt and the recently inducted Hall of Famer Dave Little to provide the commentary.  Track announcer Ken Warkentin gets into the mix as does sideline reporter, Bob “Hollywood,” Heyward. All of them came to the same conclusion—that Greenshoe could not be beaten in the $1 million Hambletonian final.  They were not alone of course as those in attendance made the 3-year old trotter the overwhelming fave in the biggest harness race of the year.

After he barely broke a sweat on a sweltering 87 degree day in his elimination race, it appeared that the real race would be for second place.  But, in harness racing, strange things can happen.  Last year, Atlanta faltered badly down the stretch in her elimination heat and finished second.  In the final—she romped to victory.

Bob McClure is a horsemen’s horseman.  He has spent most of his career toiling on the backtracks of Canada, but in recent years, has elevated his game.  He now races primarily at Woodbine Mohawk Park; Canada’s premier harness track and the site for this October’s Breeders’ Crown races.  Today, he was on the bike for the Canadian bred, Forbidden Trade.  Dismissed at odds of 18-1, he finished third in his elimination behind Don’t Let ‘Em and everybody’s choice, Greenshoe.  Remember, those are win odds and because “The Shoe,” was such a heavy favorite, the numbers are going to be skewed just a tad as they say.

In the final, McClure drove a superb race.  He stalked nicely and when they turned for home, he took to the center of the track was able to slide by the leading Green Manalishi.  Greenshoe made his move late, but despite track announcer Ken Warkentin stating that he took the lead, he never did.  Forbidden Trade was able to surge past the fading Green Manalishi and held off the hard-charging Greenshoe to win in 1:51.  And, at 15-1, he rewarded supporters with $33.80 for a $2 bet.

There were American flags at the track and both God Bless America and the Star Spangled Banner were played.  One song that they didn’t play was O Canada, but no matter—the Hambo gave Forbidden Trade, driver McClure and trainer Luc Blais some good old “Northern Exposure.”

As good as the Hambo final was—and it was a dandy—the two stars of the day were the veterans.  In the $230,300 Sam McKee Memorial Pace, Lather Up decimated a very good field.  He tripped the wire in a mind boggling 1:59.2 for 1 1/8 miles.  He cut the mile in 1:46.3, just three-fifths of a second off the world record of 1:46 he shares with Always B Miki.  For the third time this season, This Is The Plan finished second behind this superhorse and reigning Horse of the Year McWicked ran beautifully only to finish third.  In fact, both McWicked and This Is The Plan were clocked in 2:00.1, but if you saw the race, it wasn’t close; that’s how good the Clyde Francis trained colt is right now.

The other star was the tiny lady, Shartin N.  She will never be intimidating in the paddock, but once she gets racing, the others run scared.  She won for 12th time in 13 starts, capturing the $183,000 Lady Liberty Mare Pace.  Her time of 1:46.4 set a world record for older pacing mares.  They say that female pacers can’t run with the boys, but I tend to disagree here.  Other than Lather Up, I wouldn’t bet against the New Zealand bred Shartin N in any race against anybody.  She simply glides over the track. Last week, she whipped the field in the $100,000 Clara Barton Pace at Plainridge Park and Saturday, it was more of the same at The Big M.

I should add another star and that would be When Doves Cry, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks winner.  She made it look very easy as she took the lead on the backstretch, cut the half in 54.4 and then glided home from there.  The favorite, Millies Possesion ran very well to finish second; sometimes we forget how good the runner-ups do in the big races, but like This Is The Plan, Millies Possesion had to settle for a strong second as When Doves Cry was much the best.

A good crowd was on hand and like the previous two years, I met some great people from all over the place on harness racing’s big day.  I spent most of the day sitting in Section 105 with John and Debbie who own and train three pacers that race in Maryland at both Rosecroft and Ocean Downs.  To my left was Will, a northern New Jersey native who used to frequent the track while a student at Rutgers-Newark.  Now, 62, he decided to come back to the Meadowlands and take in this fine day of racing.  When he left, like most bettors, he “was about even.”

After the Hambo, I headed up to the rooftop; there I was able to meet the Canadian Comet, Garnet Barnsdale who was doing some work for the United States Trotting Association.  I also ran into Jim and Diane Dunn, who came in from The Pine Tree State, aka Maine.  Jim trains seven horses and wife Diane, helps out as well.  Last week, they were at Plainridge Park and for the second straight week, Diane was happy to see Shartin N win another big stakes race.

Harness racing fans are good people indeed.  In my three years of attending the Hambletonian, I have sat next to and met fans from New Jersey, Ohio, Sweden, England, Finland, Queens (NY), Maryland and Maine.  The racing was great, the experience—second to none.

The Meadowlands now takes a break until October 11, but there is no break for harness racing.  Next week features two big races; the $300,000 Dan Patch Pace at Hoosier Park on Friday and the $400,000 Carl Milstein Pace at Northfield Park on Saturday.  There is no rest for the weary, the fans, the drivers, the trainers and of course, the pacers and trotters.

 

 

Southwind Ozzi Dazzles in Adios

Five weeks after surgery he stops the clock in 1:48

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

When you watch sports, you want drama, you want competitiveness.  If you don’t get that, you want to see something special, perhaps extraordinary.  Well, for those in attendance at the Adios Run for the Orchids at The Meadows in Western Pennsylvania, the latter was served.

Southwind Ozzi came into the race as the 4/5 favorite and his winning surprised no one.  But it was the way he performed that turned heads as he blazed home by 8 lengths to win in 1:48, just 1/5 off the track record.  And that time was run on a 5/8 mile track which makes it more impressive.

Bill MacKenzie trains Oz and this was the first time he raced in the Adios.  Not a bad debut, huh?  MacKenzie is a true grinder; he spends most of his time training and racing overnighters at Freehold Raceway, where, prior to this year, the open paces and trots were running for $8,000 purses.  With the win in this $400,000 race, Mackenzie’s cut will be $20,000.

The story doesn’t stop there.  Just five weeks ago, Southwind Ozzi underwent hernia surgery, putting things in doubt.  That seemed to calm when he won his elimination last week in 1:49.3.  The surgery did change things for the horse as he had a testicle removed, thus, he became the first ridgling to win the Adios.

The race set up beautifully for Ozzi who was driven by Brian Sears.  Prince of Tides blasted an opening quarter of 25.3 while Sears kept Oz back in fourth.  Right before the three-quarter mark, Oz took the lead and the race was over.

Before the race MacKenzie wasn’t sure if he had a great horse.  Afterwards, he was starting to believe.

“That’s what great horses do, and after the way he raced today, I’m beginning to think he’s a great horse,” he said. “He’s never raced badly for us. I told Brian that if he had to come first over, I didn’t think it would matter.”

Next week is Hambletonian Day with plenty of stakes races, and Southwind Ozzi will be heading to New Jersey, but it won’t be to The Meadowlands.  Instead, he will return to MacKenzie’s training facility in Cranbury, NJ.  From there, they will ponder their next move.

It’s never great to speculate, but could the Carl Milstein Memorial Pace at Northfield Park be in their thinking?  Like the Adios, a $400,000 purse is offered and the half-mile track has always produced fast times in their big races.

For now, the connections can take delight on what happened at The Meadows.  Five weeks ago, it was an emergency surgery; today, it was an eye popping performance in front of an adoring crowd.  That’s nice to see of course, because The Meadows, like trainer MacKenzie is one of harness racing’s grinders.  It’s open 12 months a year with 195 days of racing.  The Adios, despite being one week prior to the Hambletonian always has a competitive field.  This year, 26 horses entered with three eliminations contested last Saturday to whittle the field to nine.

The field was competitive, but the race was not as Southwind Ozzi left no doubt as to who was best.

 

An End and a Beginning

Buffalo Raceway concludes season, Batavia Downs opens Wednesday.

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

It is over—for 2019.  The season at Buffalo Raceway, which began on Jan. 25 has concluded.  But, fear not.  If you live in Western New York, the same horses, same drivers and same trainers are heading east (about 45 miles) to Batavia Downs for its 2019 season.

I tuned in for the season finale at what the locals call “The Fairgrounds Oval,” and the final race was a good one.  It was a Class D pace—the lowest there—and it ran for what we might call a paltry purse of $4,400, but there they were, eight pacers giving their all.  I’m not sure the pacers know how much money is at stake, but one thing we do know is when the car speeds away, the pacers and trotters come to play.

Lucky Millionaire was shown no love as he was sent off at 16-1, but the 10-year old was feeling good, taking them through the quarter in 28.4 and the half in 58.2, but remember; he was 16-1 for a reason.  By three-quarters, the favored 9-year old Story Book took command and then held off the 7-year old Holla At UrBoy to win in a crisp 1:57.2  In Harness Racing, we divvy the purse as follows:  50 percent for the win and then 25, 12, 8, and 5 percent for places two through five.  For Story Book, it’s another $2,200; for Holla At UrBoy, $1,100 and $528 for the 16-1 Lucky Millionaire.  Also picking up checks were Indy Ingot, $352 and Autobiographical, $220.

This is why I prefer Harness Racing over the thoroughbreds.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing like a big thoroughbred race and if you caught the thrilling Haskell last evening, you know how exciting that can be, but the thoroughbreds, for the most part, cannot offer the Story Books and the Lucky Millionaires.   These pacers and trotters will race week in and week out, allowing fans like us an opportunity to develop favorites.

As a case in point, let’s look at the opening card at Batavia Downs.  The final race of the evening is for $4,900 and is open to non-winners of $2,250 in their last four races.  These horses can be claimed for $4,500 each and the eight fillies and mares have combined to make 158 starts this year, an average just under 20.  You’ll never see that in thoroughbred racing and nor should you.  They may share the name Horse Racing, but they are two completely different sports.

The Open I, as it is called runs for $12,500 and features the best that both Buffalo and Batavia offer.  In this race, the eight fillies and mares have combined to make 153 starts.

When people ask me why I prefer “the Harnesses,” that’s my answer.  I cite familiarity, consistency and regularity.  Sarah Cola, unless she is injured or getting a break is going to race at least three times a month at Buffalo or Batavia.  And, this year, in her 19 starts, she has four wins, one second and three thirds and $23,800 in earnings.

The Downs will race from Wednesday, July 25 through Saturday, Dec. 14, offering 65 racing dates.  Combined with Buffalo’s 66 dates, there are 131 racing dates in WNY over the 12 months.

“You can make a living there,” said driver Shawn Gray.  “The tracks are close enough, they race enough and the purses are good enough to make some decent money.”

Gray now races at Saratoga Casino Hotel, moving there to be closer to his family in Maine.

“I moved to Buffalo from Maine back in 2012,” Gray said, “I did well there, but I wanted to move closer to home so I now race at Saratoga and Plainridge (MA).”

It’s a special year for Batavia Downs.  On Saturday, Sept 14, they will host for the first time ever the finals of the New York State Sire Stakes for 2 and 3-year old pacers and trotters.   That’s eight races—four for the fillies and four for the colts and geldings— and each race has a $225,000 purse.

The New York Sire Stakes promotes the breeding, buying and racing of Standardbreds in the Empire State.  New York was the pioneer in creating this program and many states have since followed suit.  In addition to that, on that same Sept. 14, the Kane Memorial Pace for 3-year olds and up will run for a purse of $50,000.

The Downs will run just about every Wednesday evening and will run three or four days per week over the next six months.  They’ll run Sundays in July and August, but once the Buffalo Bills season begins, they’ll move to Saturday evenings.  No use taking on the team that generates TV ratings in the 30s and 40s during the NFL season.

Things are looking up at Batavia Downs (the first harness track I visited back in the day).  Purses are up 10 percent and the track, which almost closed several years ago, seems to be on solid footing.  It kicks off at 6 pm this Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

The Heat is On In More Ways Than One

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

As Glenn Frey once said, “The heat is on,” and it certainly will be today across much of the country.  Many race tracks have bowed to Mother Nature and have canceled racing for today, but Monmouth Park and the harness tracks are going forward.  Monmouth is relying on its proximity to the ocean, and the fact that it is running its signature race—the $1 million Haskell—as reasons to run.  The race is also scheduled for broadcast on NBC and should the card be canceled, that exposure goes bye-bye.

Most harness tracks are delaying their start times in the hope that as the sun sets, it will cool down enough to make things bearable for horses and patrons alike.  In New York, if the heat index is 105 or higher, there can be no racing.  The index should be under 100 by 7 pm, so officials at Saratoga Casino Hotel (the harness track) are figuring that an 8 pm post time should offer the opportunity to race safely.

Like Monmouth, it’s a big night at SCH.  The signature race of the year takes place with the $260,000 Joe Gerrity Memorial Pace.  It’s one of the best races for older pacers and has attracted a star-studded cast and should no doubt keep things hot at SCH.

PJ Iovino is the race director and he makes the calls, trying to assemble the best eight horse field that he can.  Some years are better than others; in 2015 he lured Wiggle It Jiggleit, at the time the reigning Horse of the Year and he blazed to victory.  Last year, Iovino admitted it wasn’t a stellar, but Evening of Pleasure put on a dazzling display when he broke 1:50 on the half-mile track.

Personally, I thought Iovino was being hard on himself, but he did a great job in assembling this, the 2019 field.  It is led by reigning Horse of the Year, McWicked.  Last year, he became the oldest—age 7—to win that award as he won and won often and made over $1.5 million, but this year, he hasn’t been on his game.  Granted he has only made five starts, but I think this is a big race for him.  A win gets him back on track; a disappointing performance may cause his handlers to rethink and map out a different course of action going forward.  He gets the 3 post, so there shouldn’t be any excuses.

The first quarter should be quite a spectacle.  The race is full of leavers and many will want that lead over the first 440 yards.  Could we see a 25 and change fraction?  I doubt it on a half-mile, but it certainly will be under 27.  The first half will be fast, so the question is simple—who can hold on over the final 880 to nab the $130,000 first place check?

The eight horse field has combined to make 95 starts this year.  In addition, they have earned a total of $2,100,227.  Western Fame accounts for 25 percent of that with $526,300 and will certainly be in contention tonight.

You can make a case for all eight, but as we know winning from the seven and eight post requires a herculean effort and both Ideal Jimmy (the 7) and Done Well (the 8) are the least accomplished pacers in the field.  Ideal Jimmy is the warrior with 22 starts, but he has only banked $262,556.  Done Well makes his ninth start with $118,539 in earnings.

Here is the field, the drivers and the odds.

1The Wall/Jim Pantaleano/8-1

2-Western Fame/Daniel Dube/9-5

3-McWicked/Brian Sears/9-2

4-This Is The Plan/Yannick Gingras/Ron Burke/5-1

5-None Bettor A/Joe Bongiorno/5-2

6-Jimmy Freight/Scott Zeron/10-1

7-Ideal Jimmy/Brent Holland/15-1

8-Done Well/Matt Kakaley/25-1

None Bettor A is the mystery horse, having done his work outside North America and the 5 post will not hurt.  I am never one to make picks, but I’m thinking This Is The Plan.  I like Gingras in the big race and this is a big one.  If I’m wrong; you don’t know me.

The 14 race card features New York Sire Stakes action for 2-year old colt/gelding pacers, open handicaps running for $20,000 and $25,000 and $594,500 in total purses.

 

 

 

 

Meadowlands Pace Plus Eight

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.