10/10/2012 4:45PM

Meadowlands: All-turf meeting kicks off Friday

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The New Jersey Thoroughbred racing season concludes where it began – at the Meadowlands Racetrack for eight all-turf cards.

The circuit began at the Big M in May before shifting to Monmouth Park for the core meet. Now it’s back to the Meadowlands on Friday afternoon for a six-race program starting at 2:15 p.m. Eastern.

“I was really excited about the fact that we overfilled in every race,” said Dennis Drazin, the consultant guiding Darby Development, LLC, which operates Monmouth and the Meadowlands Thoroughbred meet. “We were a little nervous about the response because the purses were down. We had spent the majority of the money keeping Monmouth purses high, but people really want to run on the turf.”

The Meadowlands will run Friday and Saturday afternoons through Nov. 3, conditions permitting. With the main track unavailable, the meet will be very weather dependent.

While the well being of the horses and riders is paramount, Drazin said the intent is to run.

“We’re not supposed to cancel unless we have to,” he said. “If it’s a safety issue or the jockeys have concerns, we will do what’s right for the safety of the horses and riders. We are going to try and race if we have light rain or a yielding course.”

Looking into the future, Drazin envisions a future where night Thoroughbred racing could return to the Big M.

“As I watch the night signals around the country, there is not a lot of good racing out there,” Drazin said. “There are some isolated nights when we get the California tracks, but I think the Meadowlands could really fill a void in that market. Especially, if we can offer exchange wagering.”

The opening-day allowance feature is a $30,000 optional $22,000 claimer at one mile that drew a full field of 10 with four more on the also-eligible list.

Having overcome some foot issues, Dear John, a Red Oak Stables homebred trained by Greg Sacco, will be looking for a second straight win.

He suffered a quarter crack over the summer that has since grown out. Sacco shopped for a few spots since the win at Monmouth in mid-August but nothing developed until opening day at the Meadowlands.

“We couldn’t get him in a couple of times and then races came off the turf,” Sacco said. “He’s been training really well. We expect a good effort from him.”