09/26/2008 11:00PM

Meet adds days, turf races


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Meadowlands meet starts Tuesday afternoon in a throwback mode reminiscent of the late 1970s when the track first opened.

In an era when most tracks have reduced their schedules, the Big M is going the other way: six days a week, pausing only on Sundays due to football conflicts at nearby Giants Stadium.

It will be a split meet, with half the programs in the afternoon and the remainder at night. The Meadowlands will race afternoons Monday through Wednesday, with first post at 1:10 p.m. The racing Thursday through Saturday starts at 7 p.m.

The highlight of the meet is Friday's Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup.

The congested schedule through Nov. 15 stems from a legislative requirement to race 141 live Thoroughbred dates at New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority tracks in order to offer offtrack wagering and Internet account betting.

The NJSEA ran 100 days at Monmouth Park. The remaining 41 are shoe-horned into the tight window available before standardbred racing returns to the Meadowlands on Nov. 21.

"The meet at Monmouth was relatively strong, with the excitement of Big Brown running there twice," vice president Bob Kulina said. "Hopefully, it will carry over."

One important feature at the

Big M every fall is the pristine turf course, untouched since last year.

"We have a brand-new turf course, and we plan to run a lot of grass races," Kulina said. "It will be the purest turf course on the East Coast. We hope to run 100-plus races on it."

The compressed schedule ratchets up the pressure on the race office to fill six cards a week. Shippers from New York and other neighboring states have always been an important part of the Meadowlands mix.

"It will be interesting to see how the horsemen support what we have to do," Kulina said. "They have always supported the Meadowlands very strongly."