Hambletonian Joins Busy Sports World Comeback On Saturday

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The races — like the show — must go on.

So even in a year of global COVID-19 pandemic — and a week of 1 million New Jerseyans losing their power due to a tropical storm-induced blackout — North American harness racing’s biggest day will take place as usual on Saturday.

Well, not quite as usual.

The 95th annual running of the $1 million Hambletonian Stakes card kicks off at noon for the 16-race event, but will have limited attendance due to COVID-19 protocols.

Horse racing fans with reservations can dine on the West Deck, while other guests can set themselves up for the Backyard or the Café.

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The Café — which as of Friday was sold out, alas — will have waitress service and be tented for guest comfort. Guests can dine on racetrack staples including chicken wings and French fries, cheesesteaks, burgers, pretzels, popcorn, ice cream, and more. Reservations had to be prepaid and were $100 per table for a food credit.

Only a few spots remained in the Backyard (you can check with [email protected] to see if it’s not too late).

The Backyard BBQ & Grill will have waitress service and also be tented. Guests can dine on $15 brunch specials and summertime grilled fare including burgers, sausages, and hot dogs, along with brisket, ribs, and mac and cheese.

Backyard reservations must be prepaid and are $25 per person. The $25 is also a food credit that can be used at the Backyard BBQ & Grill and Backyard Bar.

Hambo Day has many key races

Races in addition to the million-dollar “Hambo” include the $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks; $273,125 Cane Pace; $90,525 Shady Daisy; $229,660 Sam McKee; $177,100 Lady Liberty; $284,200 John Cashman; $166,550 John Steele; $339,000 Peter Haughton; and $350,300 Jim Doherty.

Wagering on the entire Hambletonian Day card will be available all day long on Friday, Aug. 7, including during Friday night’s regular race card.

The Meadowlands also will offer wagering for those who need the convenience of a walkup window, given the track’s reduced capacity. There will be a betting window in Lot M off Berry’s Creek Road. Tellers will take action from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks will be presented on a tape-delayed broadcast that will be seen on the CBS Sports Network beginning at 6 p.m.

The live post times are Hambletonian Oaks at 3:30 p.m. and the Hambletonian at 4:35 p.m.

The show will be hosted by Gary Seibel remotely, with the Big M’s TV team of Dave Brower and Dave Little serving as the primary on-site players. Gabe Prewitt, Ashley Mailloux, and Jessica Otten will handle interviews during the one-hour program. Ken Warkentin will call the race for the 21st time in his career.

Fans also can watch the races on the Roberts Television Network or on the Television Games Network (TVG). To bet the races, you can go to 4NJBets or TVG’s website.

A longshot bettor’s paradise

Saturday brings a mandatory payout for the 20-cent “Super High-Five,” with a low 15% takeout and a $109,280 carryover.

“We have a unique wagering and investment opportunity for all players caused by the low takeout and big carryover,” said Meadowlands Racetrack General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “We have placed the wager on Race 14, which will take place 30 minutes before the prestigious Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

“The opportunity for the player is superb, as the mathematics of this carryover wager have swung the advantage to the player, arguably making the mandatory payout on the High-Five the best bet offered at any racetrack or sportsbook on Hambletonian Day.”

Five other wagers on the program will be offered at the smaller 15% rake:

  • 20-cent Pick-6 (Race 1)
  • 20-cent Pick-5 (Race 3, $75,000 guaranteed pool)
  • 50-cent Pick-4 (Race 8, $100,000)
  • 20-cent Pick-5 (Race 11, $50,000)
  • 50-cent Pick-4 (Race 13, $50,000)

Photo by Jeff Schultes / Shutterstock.com

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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