East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands has an intriguing and eventful weekend on the horizon, hosting eleven races on both Friday and Saturday evenings with stakes types beginning to populate the card and the $50,000 World Harness Handicapping Challenge final on Saturday.
Friday's offering has a pair of features with a stout group of eight pacing mares set to go in the sixth race and an octet of trotters, several of whom are prepping for next Saturday's Arthur Cutler Memorial, in the seventh race $20,000 Preferred trot.
Darlinonthebeach and Penpal are a pair of accomplished four-year-old mares preparing to possibly take on male rivals in the first leg of the $1 million Graduate series, also scheduled for next Saturday.
Darlinonthebeach (David Miller) successfully battled the best sophomore fillies on her way to earning $671,000 while taking her 1:48.1 record in a division of the Glen Garnsey last fall in Lexington for White Birch Farm and trainer Nancy Johansson.
Penpal faced the division leaders and earned more than $200,000 without a stakes win for trainer/driver Pat La Chance who owns her in partnership with M&M Harness Racing.
They'll find the test their connections may seek in making that decision by facing strong competition here. Chief among the opponents are the battle tested veteran Inittowinafortune (Corey Callahan) who won the class last week along with the multiple stakes winning Blue Moon Stride (Andy Mc Carthy) coming in off an impressive qualifier and Prairie Sweetheart (John Campbell) whose unblemished career record recently came to an end.
The trotting race is deep with talent as well with several of the participants prepping for next Saturday's $200,000e Arthur Cutler Memorial Free For All.
It marks the first seasonal start for the venerable JL Cruze who is paired for the first time with driver Dave Miller. If earning over $230,000 in a season can be termed disappointing, that may well have been the case for JL Cruze's connection in 2016. Despite some solid efforts, he didn't find the form of 2015 when he became the first (and only) trotter to shade 1:50 at The Meadowlands with his 1:49.4 Graduate Final win. Trainer Eric Ell continues to tinker with his routine trying to have him at his best this season for owners Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar and Steve Iaquinta.
Dayson (Yannick Gingras) and Maestro Blue Chip (Tim Tetrick) each boast a strong stakes résumé and are making their first money starts of the season while the balance of the field has been busy racing and earning throughout the spring.
"Greek Night" is the theme in Pink's trackside buffet this week, so make those reservations for Friday evening dining.
Horseplayers are making their annual pilgrimage to the mecca of harness racing to compete in the year's biggest contest, the $50,000 pool World Harness Handicapping Challenge on Saturday night. Contestants are welcomed on Friday evening with a buffet party and a tour to get familiar with the building. It's not too late to enter and see how you stack up against the best and maybe take a big check home with you for your efforts.
First post is 7:15 p.m.