Updated on 09/16/2011 7:19AM

Flat-harness double offered

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The Meadowlands racetrack in New Jersey has scheduled two early-evening Thoroughbred races on May 15 and 16 to start its usual nighttime harness racing card.

The Thoroughbred races, run on turf, will go off at 6:35 p.m. and 7:20 p.m. both nights, with the harness card following on the dirt track at 8 p.m. A Thoroughbred-harness daily double will link the last Thoroughbred race and first harness race, officials with the Meadowlands said.

"It's an experiment, and one that hopefully works," said Bob Kulina, vice president of Thoroughbred racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns The Meadowlands and Monmouth Park.

Thoroughbred and Standardbred races have very rarely been run on the same card in the United States because of stark differences in how the tracks are maintained, and a mixed-breed card probably hasn't been offered in the U.S. for 40 years, said Alan Horowitz, the general manager of Capital Racing in northern California.

In the 1960's, Horowitz said, many fair tracks commonly scheduled two or three harness races to start the card, harrowed the dirt track, and then ran races for Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, and Quarter Horses.

"That was back in a time when the track surfaces weren't as incompatible as they are now," Horowitz said.

Greenwood, a racetrack in downtown Toronto, Canada, that closed in the 1990's, also used to run Thoroughbred races and Standardbred races on the same card, but on different tracks.

With a heavy emphasis on the final times of races, Standardbred courses in the U.S. are normally groomed to be much harder and far less forgiving than Thoroughbred tracks.

Meadowlands officials said the Thoroughbred races were added to the card to drive simulcast wagering on the track's Standardbred races. The Thoroughbred races will occupy the "bridge," a term referring to the gap between live daytime Thoroughbred racing and live nighttime harness racing on the East Coast.