01/04/2012 6:11PM

A New Meadowlands

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Finally! The Meadowlands is back. Make that the New Meadowlands.

No matter what you want to call it – The Big M, the track by the swamp – the Meadowlands returns to action on Friday, January 6 with 12 big races and full fields.

Operator Jeff Gural is ready and willing to try anything to make New Meadowlands a success. In addition to approaching the driving colony about more aggressive driving (read Gural's quote), he revealed a few other tidbits of things to look for as the meet progresses.

“With Freehold closed through the end of February, we are toying with the idea of carding 14-horse fields for $7,500 claimers racing at 1 ½ miles,” said Gural. “The horses with the most points in those races would come back for a big money final at the end of February. We might even distribute money down to 10 places in those races.

“I’m not sure if the races will fill, but the added distance should alleviate concerns over the large field size.”

Gural, who will be in attendance on opening night, plans on trying as many promotions as possible.

“As we get closer to the summer, I plan on copying some of the promotions that have worked at Tioga,” said Gural, who will once again participate in the Beat The Boss contest, which pits Gural against the fans in a handicapping duel. “We have lowered the price of valet parking from $10 to $5 and will offer free admission and programs on Fridays.”

Other things to expect in 2012 include:

Wagering format – The rolling Pick 3 is gone. Each program will feature just one Pick 3 on the final three races. Superfectas will be offered in every race, though only select races (5, 7, 9, 11, last) will allow for a .10-cent minimum wager.
Around the far turn – Grabbing a piece of the Meadowlands’ past, management has re-banked the turns with a 10% incline. This, in theory, should allow for horses to rally from third- or fourth-over on a more consistent basis.
In the sulky – All the regular drivers will be on track – Brian Sears, Tim Tetrick, Andy & Dave Miller, Yannick Gingras – along with some possible new faces on the regular scene. Freehold and Yonkers regular Jim Pantaleano has mentioned taking a full-time shot at the East Rutherford driving colony. Matt Kakaley is driving on opening weekend. The marquee newbie could be Walter Case Jr. . . . pending approval from the New Jersey Racing Commission and the USTA.
Tasty – Expect some better eats when you travel to New Meadowlands. A new food vendor has been brought in to spice up the offerings, quality and service.

With Yonkers Raceway and Harrah’s Chester closed since before Christmas, and many horses simply returning from a late fall vacation, a large portion of horses on opening weekend will be coming off qualifying races. There were 34 such morning warm-up events contested on December 29 and 30 at the Meadowlands. I watched them all so you don’t have to. Let’s take a look at some horses that caught my attention:

Qualifiers - Thursday, December 29

MS BETTY HOPE – Was locked in at the back and had some stretch pace. The effort on the track was better than the line looks on paper.
FOREIGN OFFICER – Won as he pleased.
COLD HARD FACTS – Stacked up behind excess cover and finished a willing second behind a runaway winner.
DRAGON PRINCESS – Saved ground and had to wait for stretch room to stretch her legs. She finished up willingly when clear.
ARTISTS VIEW – Was parked for the opening three-eighths of the mile even though the chart won’t show it. He finished up evenly in his first start in four months.
SUPERSTAR DREAM – Restrained behind horses in the lane and finished up willingly when shown daylight.
INTEGRITY – Locked in the pocket and never really got clear.
GOLDEN RECEIVER – Was a sharp winner.
DREAMS ARE REAL – Got shuffled out and backed into. He had some late pace.

Qualifiers - Friday, December 30

BIG SKY STORM – After getting looped off the gate, he eventually made his way to the top before yielding into the pocket. He faced some stretch traffic and was in-tight late.
FOLK TAIL – Finished with a solid burst in the lane. He is eligible for the bottom level condition.
CAMERON CHIP – Gobbled up tired foes impressively in the stretch. He won three races here in 2011.
TROUBLE – Sat the pocket and surged to the front professionally in the lane. Qualifier was his first start for trainer Julie Miller.
MACHINE – Made a nice middle move and finished willingly with his trainer driving.
ANOTHER HOMER N – Won by open lengths on the engine on a day when only 4 of the 14 winners went wire to wire.

You may also want to check out on-site chart caller PJ Iovino’s Meadowlands Qualifying Insider report. And if you are looking for a second opinion when you are ready to head to the windows, be sure to check out my analysis.

Good luck on opening weekend!

RELATED LINKS:

2012 New Meadowlands Meet Preview

2012 Stakes Schedule

Opening Night at the New Meadowlands: Free Friday PPs & Analysis

Harness News

Tom Gazdecki More than 1 year ago
The people in the stands need to see probably the best driver that has ever been on a half mile track which is Walter Case Jr. (if he can stay clean that is) and no one at the MEADOWLANDS could feel threated by his return, unlike his ability to drive on a half mile track he is just soso on a bigger track but if he can he will beat anyone in his way wish he could drive at Yonkers against the likes of Brennan and Bartlett which are great in there own right but with walter there it would even be more competitive, and if he does get a chance to race at the MEADOWLANDS he will still have to race against the best in the business now and in my opinion is Brian Sears, on any horse, and the best trot driver i have ever seen is Tetrick without a doubt, and his record says it all for the last 5 yrs he is unbeatable and if and when Case is allowed to race, that will diminish by leaps and bounds. No one can or everwill win 978 races at one track in a single season again if Tetrick didn't have all the races available to him he would never have broken Cases single season win numbers and if you look at the starts by Case and Tetrick the latter is and always be the best there ever was. OF COURSE THIS IS JUST MY OPINION Thank you
joe rod More than 1 year ago
I visited the track last week and this week...and to my surprise a great many of their self betting machines were not working..they could not read vouchers...would not accept tickets..would not advance to next line when you hit the with button...some were so dirty that you had to hit the print button multiple times before it took...also its disgusting and very unsanitary to have and touch print button when it has fingerprints, ketchup,mustart on it...its obvious there is no maintenance done on their machines...last saturday the very first bet i made...i inserted my voucher in machine and nothing happenned...had to call and wait for someone to come and clear machine....also most of food stands and cooffee stand were closed....if they dont improve service..i an sure there will be fewer people attending
affirmedny More than 1 year ago
Check out the superfecta pools on the dime races versus the others. So much for that idea....... [Check out my new blog entry. - DG]
affirmedny More than 1 year ago
12 races over at 10:50 PM on a Friday night, are we on a curfew? Some things haven't changed. It still seems the object is to get the employees home as early as possible. I wonder if you can get a drink or something to eat after the live races are over and there's still an hour or two of simulcasting left. I remember when the PACKED clubhouse bar used to stay open until 1 or 2am while we bet harness racing from Los Al or thoroughbreds from Hollywood. It used to be a night out, we saw the same fans every week. I guess those days are over, sadly. [I liked the quicker pace. BTW, I think the track stays open until midnight on Friday and Saturday. - DG]
Brandon More than 1 year ago
DG, If this is the "New Meadowlands" than they regressed. The picture quality of their product via simulacast was horrendous and the "NO NUMBERS' equaled me wageing on the early double and going home. [I watched on TVG and via the web on DRF.com. I didn't notice any issue with the picture. Not having the numbers or a split screen early was quite annoying. - DG]
Mike Oliver More than 1 year ago
I look for the downward trend in both handle and quality to continue. The new management had an opportunity to give something back to the horseplayer by lowering the takeout, but chose not to do so. Derick, on a side note is DRF (harness eye) going to offer horseplayers the chance to purchase their version of PPs online. Back in October, this appeared to be a real possibility, but it appears that nothing has come of it. Are negotiations ongoing, or was no agreement reached? [Check out this link: http://www.drf.com/news/drf-harness-starts-now]
tony More than 1 year ago
NO ROLLING PK 3'S . WHY?? [No clue. I would think they may reverse course on that if the public demands it. - DG]
Gil More than 1 year ago
The loss of the rolling pick-3s will have an impact on my choosing to bet The Meadowlands. It was my favorite bet for many reasons. Even for those who did not play them, seeing the probables before every race enabled players to see hot and cold horses before betting a race. The 14-horse 1 1/2 mile races are more for lottery players than harness racing bettors. Maybe encouraging lottery players to bet horses is a good thing. Good to see the price of valet parking coming down. The idea is for people to have as much money as possible in their pockets so that they can put them through the windows. I have mixed feelings about letting Walter Case drive again. But it saddens me to see that some people think that Pena's ban has anything to do with his ethnicity. The possibility that his ability to improve horses by multi-seconds over the best trainers in the world simply because he is a hard worker -- defies all logic. His presence is a detriment to the sport. Bring back the rolling pick-3s. Add a 12-horse superfecta for a one mile race. Thanks for the info, Derick. Thanks to the DRF for being a source for harness racing.
Bob Adams More than 1 year ago
So here we have a track owner who wants his name in bright lights "I'm the saviour" please. He wants a driving style back when the Swamp opened, memo to Mr Gural you can't go back in time. The horsemen and the fans is what is at stake, you on the other hand want to alter things based on ego. You would be further ahead saying I put my cash up and there's a new sheriff in town, no funny business or your gone. [Without coming right out and saying it loudly, I believe that is what he is saying. - DG]
jay More than 1 year ago
hi derick, Lots of very useful info. Great job. should be a great meet. good luck jay