Thursday, July 28, 2022

The next two weeks on the sulky sport’s calendar are two of the most exciting of the year with the eliminations and finals for the $1-million Hambletonian and $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks to take place this Saturday (July 30) and next (Aug. 6), respectively, at The Meadowlands.

But there is also some sadness amid the excitement as last Saturday (July 23), harness racing lost a true friend with the passing of Assemblyman Ron Dancer. He was 73.

“Ron Dancer spent his life either in the harness game [he was a trainer for three decades] or going to bat for the harness game [as a N.J. Assemblyman],” said Meadowlands’ Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “Everyone who earns their living in harness racing in the State of New Jersey can, in part, thank Ron Dancer, whose contribution in helping to keep the game strong since being appointed to the Assembly 20 years ago has gone a long way toward keeping The Meadowlands the No. 1 facility of its type in the world.”

Dancer would no doubt be looking forward to the next two Saturdays. His ties to the Hambletonian are strong. His father, Stanley Dancer, whose face would likely be etched in stone if harness racing had its own Mt. Rushmore, won four Hambletonians during his storied career.

The Hambletonian Day card, aka “The Greatest Day in Harness Racing”, has a first-race post time of noon (the Hambletonian will go at 6:35 p.m.; the Oaks at 4:48 p.m.) and features the strongest card of the year not only at The Big M, but in the entire sport.

The lineup of stakes races (with estimated purses) includes the $1-million Hambletonian, $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, $400,000 Peter Haughton Memorial, $400,000 Jim Doherty Memorial, $300,000 John Cashman Memorial, $275,000 Cane Pace, $275,000 Sam McKee Memorial, $175,000 Lady Liberty, $175,000 John R. Steele and $90,000 Shady Daisy.

These are the fields for the eliminations for the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks on Saturday (July 30) night at The Meadowlands (the top five in the official order finish from each will race in their respective final):

Hambletonian Elimination One (Race 9)

PP – Horse – Driver – Trainer – Morning Line

1 – Cool Papa Bell – Brian Sears – Jim Campbell – 8-1

2 – Looks Like Moni – Dave Miller – Nancy Takter – 12-1

3 – Fast As The Wind – Dexter Dunn – Tony Alagna – 8-1

4 – Branded By Lindy – Yannick Gingras – Domenico Cecere – 5-1

5 – Justice – Ake Svanstedt – Ake Svanstedt – 10-1

6 – Molotov Cocktail – Todd McCarthy – Linda Toscano – 10-1

7 – Periculum – Mattias Melander – Marcus Melander – 4-1

8 – Rebuff – Tim Tetrick – Lucas Wallin – 2-1

9 – Theresnolimit S – Orjan Kihlstrom – Marcus Melander – 15-1

10 – Pretender – Andy McCarthy – Nancy Takter – 12-1


Hambletonian Elimination Two (Race 11)

PP – Horse – Driver – Trainer – Morning Line

1 – Testing Testing – Todd McCarthy – George Ducharme – 10-1

2 – Chulo – Jason Bartlett – Per Engblom – 15-1

3 – Temporal Hanover – Orjan Kihlstrom – Marcus Melander – 7-2

4 – Slay – Joe Bongiorno – Tony Alagna – 9-2

5 – Jiggy Jog S – Dexter Dunn – Ake Svanstedt – 8-1

6 – King Of The North – Mark MacDonald – Ray Schnittker – 5-1

7 – B A Superhero – Tim Tetrick – Lucas Wallin – 8-1

8 – Keg Stand – Dave Miller – Nancy Takter – 10-1

9 – Letsdoit S – Andy Miller – Marcus Melander – 15-1

10 – Joviality S – Brian Sears – Marcus Melander – 3-1


Hambletonian Oaks Elimination One (Race 8)

PP – Horse – Driver – Trainer – Morning Line

1 – Yanaba – Andy McCarthy – Dan Daley – 10-1

2 – Selfie Queen – Jimmy Taker – Nancy Takter – 9-2

3 – Venerable – Dave Miller – Nifty Norman – 8-5

4 – Lilbitalexis – Brian Sears – Nifty Norman – 15-1

5 – Manon – Dexter Dunn – Lucas Wallin – 3-1

6 – Misswalner Fashion – Tim Tetrick – Jim Campbell – 6-1

7 – Bare My Soul – Yannick Gingras – Linda Toscano – 15-1

8 – Gracelyn Hanover – Corey Callahan – John Butenschoen – 8-1


Hambletonian Oaks Elimination Two (Race 10)

PP – Horse – Driver – Trainer – Morning Line

1 – Fashion Schooner – Tim Tetrick – Jim Campbell – 9-5

2 – Pink Coco Chanel – Dexter Dunn – Tony Alagna – 10-1

3 – Mon Cheval – Andy McCarthy – Nancy Takter – 6-1

4 – Raised By Lindy – Yannick Gingras – Domenico Cecere – 4-1

5 – Delilah Hanover – Todd McCarthy – Nifty Norman – 8-1

6 – Baptism – Ake Svanstedt – Ake Svanstedt – 7-2

7 – Peyton Hanover – Brian Sears – Marcus Melander – 15-1

8 – Warrawee Xenia – Bob McClure – Shawn Steacy – 8-1


SEE THE DRAW: The post-position draw for both the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks will take place Tuesday, Aug. 2, at Dr. Patty Hogan’s Hogan Equine Clinic in Cream Ridge, NJ.

For those who will be in attendance, the event begins at 2 p.m. The post draws will start at 3 p.m. and will be shown live on both The Meadowlands’ Facebook Live page as well as The Big M’s YouTube Channel.

Big M TV’s Dave Bower and Jessica Otten will be there with commentary and interviews.

TALK ABOUT VALUE: It’ll cost you $5 to get in the door on Hambo Day, but it’s well worth the half a sawbuck, as admission includes a commemorative Hambo hat.

Gates open at 10 a.m.

Dining and seating options include a Promenade Table ($300), Café Table ($100) or seating on the second floor in the seating lounge.

For information and reservations, call 201-THE-BIGM.

Hambo Day festivities include live music in the Backyard by the Craig Sailer Project, carnival rides and games throughout the Backyard, a Hambo Hat Contest, a FanZone tent with free swag giveaways, a driver and trainer autograph session (from 10:30 a.m.-noon) and many food trucks.

ATTENTION TRAVELERS: There are discounted hotel rooms available that are close to The Meadowlands for the Saturdays of the Hambletonian eliminations as well as the final. Discounts are valid from July 28 through August 7.

For complete information, go to https://www.mlcvb.com/hambo/

LIKE SEAFOOD? If the answer is “yes”, then you have to come out for The Big M’s annual “Seafood Fest” on Saturday (July 30).

Fresh and delicious seafood from area food trucks and restaurants will be available.

If you are interested in being a vendor, contact Rachel Ryan at raryan@playmeadowlands.com.

For complete information and a complete list of food trucks that will be on hand, go to https://playmeadowlands.com/event/seafood_fest/

CASINO & POKER NIGHT: On Friday, Aug. 5, The Standardbred Retirement Foundation and the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame present Hambletonian Charity Casino Night at The Meadowlands.

There will be a poker tournament, table games, a silent auction and more.

Tickets are priced at $75 (casino guest) and $150 (exact special).

Things will kick off at 6:30 p.m. with dinner and an open bar as casino tables open. Then, at 7:15 p.m., the poker tournament begins with a $150 buy-in (equal to $3,000 in chips). There is a grand prize of a trip for two to Las Vegas with cash prizes for second and third.

At 9:15 p.m., the silent auction concludes as casino tables close before the clock strikes 9:30 p.m., when the bar closes and raffle winners are drawn.

HORSE PLAY: The end of “Horseplay” is drawing near, and one lucky person is going to drive away in a new car.

Patrons attending the live races at The Meadowlands can participate for a chance to win a 2022 Toyota Corolla.

The contest takes place every live racing night through Friday, August 5. Participants will attempt to throw a numbered horse into the window of a moving car. Of those that land inside the vehicle, one winner will be chosen at random and will receive a $100 betting voucher.

Each night’s winner will be entered into the grand prize drawing, which will take place on August 5. Guests can pick up a free horse to toss at the Players Club Desk or the Horseplay table in front of the winner’s circle.

There is a bonus for the kids who are at the track. The youngsters who help pick up the horses left on the track will receive a free ice cream.

For every horse that makes it into the Horseplay car, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment will donate $5 to a designated monthly charity. May’s charity was Act Now Foundation, June’s was Bluemont Sanctuary and the July/August recipient is Allaire Community Farm. An additional $5 for every horse that makes it into the car will also be donated to the Purple Haze Standardbred Adoption Program.

LIVE RACING SCHEDULE: Racing at The Big M will be conducted on a Friday-Saturday basis for the remainder of the meeting, which concludes on Hambletonian Day, Saturday, Aug. 6.

Post time is 6:20 p.m., except for Hambo Day, when the first race heads to the gate at noon.

There is one exception to the racing sked, when there will be an additional night of racing, on Thursday, Aug. 4.

The track’s live “Racing from The Meadowlands” pregame show kicks off nightly at 5:47 p.m. On Hambletonian Day, the show will begin at 11:30 a.m.

GET ON TWITTER: Everything Meadowlands is available by going on Twitter. You can check in with the Big M team for early changes, racing information and staff selections by going to @themeadowlands or #playbigm.

On race nights, stay in touch with Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1), Dave Brower (@eedoogie), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover) and Edison Hatter (@Edison_1999_).

JESSICA RED-HOTTEN: Last weekend, the track’s “Battle of the Masterminds” was no contest as Otten was the winning handicapper on both Friday (July 22) and Saturday (July 23) nights.

Otten, whose six nightly wins are tops among the five touts in the contest, has come out on top three of the last four race programs.

The overall leader continues to be Brower, the only one of the fab five to still be showing a profit. Overall, Brower has turned his mythical $9,000 bankroll into $9,780, and has been in the black on nine occasions over the 18 times the competition has been contested.

On-track patrons can enter every live racing night, selecting the handicapper they think will win that night’s edition of the tournament. If that handicapper wins and that patron’s name is drawn from the entry box, they win a $200 betting voucher plus a $50 gas gift card.

That patron is then also entered into the grand prize drawing, which takes place on Hambletonian Day, Aug. 6, one day after the conclusion of the competition.

FREE PROGRAMS: Free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands program are available 48 hours before a given card. To access the no-cost official program pages, go to playmeadowlands.com.

A HUNDRED GRAND: The best bet in harness racing is The Meadowlands’ 50-cent Pick-4, and part of why the bet is so popular is that it offers a low 15 percent takeout plus a guaranteed pool of $50,000.

The Pick-4 is offered twice a night, meaning that $100,000 in guaranteed green is on the table every live racing night at The Big M.

On 13 race cards, the Pick-4s are offered on races six through nine and 10 through 13. When there are 14 races, the Pick-4 action shifts to races seven through 10 and 11 through 14.

WHO DOES BROWER LIKE? For expert selections and analysis of every Big M card, check out track oddsmaker Brower’s race reviews.

For Brower’s input, which is generally available 48 hours before every card, go to playmeadowlands.com, then click on the “handicapping” tab and go to “race reviews”.

FABULOUS FANDUEL: With the Subway Series having concluded Wednesday, the New York Mets are off on Thursday (July 28) before they begin a series on Friday with the Marlins in Miami.

The best-record-in-baseball New York Yankees will play Thursday, when they host the Kansas City Royals in a 7:05 p.m. start. The Yankees are a -250 favorite in the game which has an under/over of 8½.

For Meadowlands regulars, getting action on baseball is a breeze, as located inside The Big M’s grandstand is the top sports betting facility in the country, the FanDuel Sportsbook.

Before you get your bets down, go to https://www.fanduel.com/sportsbook-meadowlands for up-to-date lines on any sporting event the book offers.

The sportsbook is open for business Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m.-1 a.m.; Friday 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday 7 a.m.-2 a.m. and Sunday 8 a.m.-12 a.m.