The Meadowlands is in the homestretch of the 2022 "Championship Meet" with just two weekends of Grand Circuit racing left, but what races there will be!
Friday night features a single $20,000 elimination (field of 10 to eliminate one toward next week's $400,000 estimated finals) for both the Peter Haughton (Race 6) and Jim Doherty (Race 8) Memorials for freshman colt and filly trotters, respectively.
The stakes conditions require that all 10 starters in these finals have their nose on the gate, so with 11 declarations for each race, a bye is offered to the top money-winners among those declared. In this case, trainer Marcus Melander accepted the pass directly into the Peter Haughton final for his NJSS champion colt Oh Well and Tony Alagna did the same for the filly Mambacita in the Doherty. Those accepting the bye will draw for post positions in the final with all others qualifying other than the elimination winners, who will draw for posts one through six.
For the first time this year, the winners of the final for both will be awarded special “Win and You’re In” eligibility to the Breeders Crown finals as described in the conditions.
The 2022 Peter Haughton Memorial is sponsored by Marvin and Lynn Katz, while the Walner Syndicate will sponsor the Jim Doherty Memorial.
Friday's card includes three overnight races for two-year-olds, an Open 2 Trot and the continuing TrackMaster series saga.
Eliminations for the $1.2 million Hambletonian and $580,000 Hambletonian Oaks highlight Saturday's stakes-laden program. The open division elimination race purses will be $100,000 and the final a cool million while the girls will race for $40,000 in the elims and go for $500,000 in next week's final.
As anticipated, the unbeaten filly Joviality (Brian Sears) was among the 20 horses entered into the open division of the Hambletonian. A perfect six-for-six this year, Joviality counts the Empire Breeders Classic, Del Miller Memorial in a career best 1:50.2 and the Yonkers Trot, where she defeated a field of colts, among her conquests. The post position draw was not kind the the Marcus Melander-trained, Courant Inc.-owned Chapter Seven filly; she has drawn the far outside, post 10, in her elimination, which is Race 11.
Among the competition in Joviality's division is stablemate Temporal Hanover, recent winner of the Zweig Memorial, Stanley Dancer Memorial division winner Slay (Dexter Dunn / Tony Alagna), 2021 Peter Haughton Memorial winner King Of The North (Mark MacDonald / Ray Schnittker and the surprise entry of a second filly, Zweig filly division winner Jiggy Jog S from the Svanstedt stable.
Rebuff, currently atop the "Road To The Hambletonian" list, heads up the other division (Race 9). Carefully spotted by his team, led by trainer Lucas Wallin and driver Tim Tetrick, the Muscle Hill colt has but two starts in preparation for the Hambo but has been flawless in both including a track record equalling 1:49.4 score in his Stanley Dancer win a fortnight past.
The competition is deep with Goodtimes winner Fast As The Wind (Dexter Dunn / Tony Alagna), NJSS final winner Pretender and the highly regarded Branded By Lindy among the foes Rebuff must rebuff.
Saturday's undercard contains the fourth leg of the popular Miss Versatility series with Bella Bellini, Atlanta and When Dovescry renewing their rivalry and one division of the Tompkins-Geers stakes for three-year-old pacing colts and fillies.
Saturday is also the annual Seafood Fest offering a cornucopia of delights from the deep (and shallow) for your tasting pleasure.
Meadowlands, of course, offers free full card programs and the selections of its bounty of handicapping Masterminds.
Visit the Meadowlands website to access all things Hambletonian Day, including seating and dining options.
Fans may also consider rubbing elbows with many of those participating in the upcoming two weeks' stakes by attending the Hambletonian Charity Casino Night presented by the Standardbred Retirement Foundation & The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame on Friday evening, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Among the highlights are a poker tournament, table games, silent auction and more, all for a good cause.
The Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey (SBOANJ) and the Meadowlands has partnered for a dining promotion. To participate in the weekly drawings, SBOA members should make their dining reservations as usual with the Meadowlands by calling 201-The-BigM and mentioning that they are a SBOA member.
Post time is 6:20 p.m. for both nights.