Two weeks after The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park was beset with intense heat and humidity, The Hambletonian took place at the Meadowlands Racetrack on Saturday to a far better weather scenario.
With temperatures in the 80s, moderate humidity, and a welcome breeze, North American harness racing’s biggest day produced an increased betting handle of 14.6% over 2018’s figures.
The $6.5 million handle for 16 races dwarfed the $4.4 mm wagered at Woodbine at Mohawk Park on March 30 that was boosted by a massive Super High-Five carryover on a “mandatory payout night.” The recent Meadowlands Pace has placed third for the year at $4.0 mm.
Attendance was up on Saturday as well, with a crowd of 19,101 compared to 18,252 for last year’s Hambo.
Forbidden Trade, a 15/1 longshot, took the featured race for a Canadian trio of owner, trainer, and driver by holding off 3/10 favorite Greenshoe down the stretch. The winner had settled for third place in one of two eight-horse heats earlier that narrowed the 16-horse field to 10.
Driver Bob McClure capped a remarkable comeback, having broken his pelvis in a qualifying race accident in April. By late May, McClure was back in action.
“I was really lucky to have a good physical trainer,” McClure said. “I probably rushed it back a little faster than I should have. I’m sure most drivers in this business have done this a time or two.”
What’s next at NJ racetracks
An American Flat Track “Meadowlands Mile” motorcycle racing event comes to the Meadowlands on Sept. 28.
The following weekend, thoroughbreds are the attraction at The Big M on Friday and Saturday. The subsequent three weekends feature a mix of thoroughbreds and standardbreds, with harness racing then reclaiming its turf each weekend for the rest of the calendar year.
Monmouth Park has a “Taste of New Orleans” event debuting on Saturday, as its weekend afternoon cards continue. On Saturday, Aug. 17, there is free admission and free parking for “Fan Appreciation Day.” Horse racing will be featured at Monmouth Park on weekends right up until the “changeover” at the Meadowlands.
And after a three-month break, live harness racing returns to Freehold Raceway on Aug. 30, with Friday/Saturday cards on tap for the rest of 2019.
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