11/21/2013 10:59AM

Meadowlands: Winds of change are blowing


On Saturday the Meadowlands embarks on a new journey in somewhat of a “Bizarro World,” to reference a popular episode of Seinfeld when all the characters acted opposite of their normal personalities. The track has been reconfigured to make the starting line the finish line and vice-versa. It seems like a simple change, but the ramifications from a wagering standpoint could be huge.

I have read plenty of comments from trainers and drivers who are concerned that some horses might think the race is over when they reach the half-mile marker (the old finish line). I’m not sure I buy that, but I guess it could happen. Imagine betting a 3-5 shot on the lead that simply stops out of nowhere. That would be gut-wrenching!

[DRF HARNESS: Follow the action on opening night at the Meadowlands (Nov. 23) - LIVE on DRF!]

Anyone who has been to the Meadowlands for a race, football game or a concert can attest to the crazy winds which occupy the region. On most nights when the wind was howling, there would be a tailwind through the stretch (wind at the horses’ backs). This same wind would blow in the faces of the horses on the backstretch and in theory allow closers a better chance of winning.

(Bob Pandolfo covers some wind theories of his own in his column)

With the grandstand now located on the opposite side of the track, it would make sense to just assume that there will mostly be headwinds in the stretch and tailwinds on the backstretch. It sounds logical. But is it reality?

During the qualifying session I attended, the wind was not overly strong (maybe 10 to 15mph) on the ground level but was quite fierce up on the fourth floor where I was watching. It was the usual crosswind that heads diagonally from the paddock to the backstretch. What quickly caught my eye was the tepid pace of each opening quarter on the Thursday (11/14) qualifying card. Whether we are discussing qualifiers or pari-mutuel races, it is typical for the second quarter to be slower than the first. Pick any card, on any day, at any track and the pattern will jump off the page.

On the Thursday card, each of the eight races produced a second quarter that was faster than the first. The average first quarter was 29 3/5, with the second quarter checking in at 28 4/5. Talk about a statistical oddity. Granted the sample size is small, but the odds of all eight qualifiers following the pattern are way greater than a 99-1 shot. Compare the above number to a tailwind day last January (1/10/13). There were nine qualifiers with an average opening quarter of 28 1/5 and second panel of 29 4/5.

It is difficult to say with certainty that on every windy night the opening quarters will be very slow, but it bears watching. The wind factor could potentially change the entire pace scenario. A slow first quarter means a slower overall pace and increases the likelihood of horses winning on the lead. Of course, that could change if drivers get aggressive from the new quarter pole until the five-eighths marker. Imagine bold brushes down the backstretch; sounds exciting!

The finish line is in the stretch, but races at the New Meadowlands on windy nights could be won and lost on the backstretch. The early forecast calls for temperatures in the low 30s with winds between 10 and 15mph on opening night (11/23). Perhaps the theory will be put to the test immediately.

And just to throw another log on the fire, what happens after the Super Bowl in February when the old grandstand is torn down? Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

I’m not going to overhaul my handicapping for Saturday’s Meadowlands card, but if the wind is blowing and I see a race without much speed, I’ll definitely key in on the horses with early zip. Speaking of the opening night card, you'll want to sharpen your handicapping pencil and bring some extras. Other than a few races, there are some difficult handicapping puzzles on the program. Good luck!

Have your voice heard

If you are in the Saratoga, NY area on Sunday (11/24), you can say your piece to the New York Racing Fan Advisory Council. Fans of both breeds are welcome to attend and provide constructive criticism or suggestions. The forum will take place at Saratoga Raceway and Casino from 11am until noon.

Lyssa More than 1 year ago
Not many in attendance over weekend.
John Barney Jr More than 1 year ago
What was the matter with the old grandstand? The food and drink could have been a lot better quaility and the Dunkin Donuts returned. On a nice night it was great to sit outside on the benches and watch the horses warm up and race. In the old grandstand some of the areas could have been closed off to give a more homey feel. I know it was built to hold the bigger crowds in the 70's. The problems are with the sport not the facilities. A lot of races only 2 or 3 horses really had a chance to win. ----- lubie
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Harnessed horses provide zero excitement.
Hello Newman More than 1 year ago
your opinion and you probably share it with others. Just like any other sport you need to understand the finer points of harness racing. I hate soccer but there are probably 10 billion people on earth who are passionate about it.
isitry More than 1 year ago
Opening night and the place looked like a ghost town. only reason the place was built was to try and siphon slots .
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
You're a liar and a hater....Bad Combo......
Hunter Delaney More than 1 year ago
what happened to the bell when they closed wagering??? Bring back teh Bell!!!
Roger Wiskavitch More than 1 year ago
I am largely neutral to The Meadowlands right now: first, all of the horses have to make the transition from Pocono, Chester, and Yonkers to the mile oval. Secondly, it took me several races to cash a ticket but overall I broke even for the night. I have always liked Woodbine and Mohawk because of the number of overnight trot races they card, and I wish they would do the same at The Meadowlands outside late closer competition. What ultimately draws me to a track are decent payouts and large betting fields. I would also like to see more horse close in the stretch but that may come in time. Give it a chance folks.......progress is seldom quick.
stewy More than 1 year ago
How did you guys like when Yanick Gingras tried to paralyze Corey Callahan in the 5th race. Im glad stewards took gingras down, hope he gets a month suspension.
Roger Wiskavitch More than 1 year ago
I think Yanick hit with the right hand and the wheel moved inside of Cory's wheel. Loose lining and whipping a horse result in careless mistakes. Stinks for racing as a whole.
stewy More than 1 year ago
Two thumbs Down-- class d track
Hello Newman More than 1 year ago
The track played like a half mile Yonkers track for the first few races. Once the drivers figured out there wasn't much passing in the last quarter on a frigid snowy night they started making more back stretch moves. Thank you Scotty Z for initiating that move on Aunt Caroline. Other drivers started following suite. Check out the difference between the first 6 races and the last 7 races. There was a big difference. Once all of the drivers catch on then you will see even more movement in the first 3 quarters with lots of shuffles. On a good night there just might be horses flying from well off the pace due to the constant lead changes in the first half of the race. My suggestion is to give it time to let the drivers figure it out and to get some traffic on the track to firm it up. Most importantly is to keep track of the wind conditions. Now I know why the 2nd quarter was just as fast or faster than the 1st. The new configuration seems like it is quicker into the 1st turn much like what they do at Yonkers. I think the best way to judge is to take in the November 30th card when there will be a lot of good talent on the track. Give it time. The conditions had a big effect on the style employed last night.
Tomatoe cake More than 1 year ago
Was not impressed at all. Too much hype--The tote board looks like cardboard, the camera looked like it had a nervous disorder , shaking non stop. The drivers lined up single file as if the were betting on other horses. I feel it was rushed to open , Wouldn't place any wagers on that type of racing.