Ladies Day At The Meadowlands As Filly Takes Hambletonian

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For just the fourth time in 40 years that the event has been held at the Meadowlands Racetrack, a filly won the $1 million Hambletonian Stakes on Saturday.

Favored Ramona Hill, the daughter of Muscle Hill, paid $2.80 to win as the favorite, winning in an impressive 1:50.1. How impressive? The time matched the record for a final heat set by her “daddy.”

Are the females catching up? This win comes just two years after filly Atlanta — still a force at the Meadowlands — knocked off the big boys. The previous filly winners at the Big M were Continentalvictory (1996) and Duenna (1983).

In the 95 runnings of the Hambletonian, North American harness racing’s biggest day, a total of 15 fillies have won.

Sorella, another daughter of Muscle Hill, won the $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks for fillies, paying $3.60 in the process.

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Brad Grant and Michelle and Al Crawford own both Ramona Hill and Atlanta.

“We haven’t quite processed, I don’t think we’ll process for a long time,” Michelle Crawford told the media. “To have these two fillies in our lives, and to do the hard work and the breeding and the racing and selections in the yearling crop to get them to this point and then find out that they’re good enough to go into these races and be competitive, is unbelievable — it’s a great feeling.”

A Hambletonian like no other

Attendance was limited to 2,400 patrons due to COVID-19 restrictions, with the only dining and beverage service being at The Backyard BBQ & Grill area. Tickets had to be purchased in advance, and track officials put out word on Friday that no more tickets were to be had.

All attendees had to wear face coverings while not at their socially distanced table. They also had their temperature checked at the entrance and had to complete a brief health questionnaire.

Hambletonian Society CEO Moira Fanning called the scene “the strangest Hambletonian I have ever been part of.”

The Northeastern harness racing community has been directly impacted by the virus, as a Yonkers Raceway trainer was the first reported death in New Jersey in March.

“Throughout history, society has dealt with crises and troubles, but great horses and great horse racing have found a way to bring people together to forget about what’s going on in their everyday lives,” Hambletonian Society President John Campbell said after the race. “I think that’s what’s happened here today.”

Prop bets offered by FanDuel

FanDuel offered some prop bets on Saturday, including:

  • Sister Sledge and Ramona Hill both to finish in the first 3 places (+300). They did.
  • Will the Hambletonian Stakes Record (1:50.1) be equaled or broken? Yes -110 or No -110. It was equaled. A Ramona Hill win attached to this bet paid +300.
  • “Bombs Away” – Any one of Hollywood Story, Big Oil or Capricornus to finish in the first 3 (+400). They did not.
  • Ready for Moni to win and LA Lakers to beat Indiana Pacers (+420). Losing bet.
  • Ramona Hill to win and LA Lakers to beat Indiana Pacers (+240). Losing bet, as the Lakers lost, 116-111.
  • A winning margin of exactly one length paid +650.

Tallying up the bets

All-source North American wagering on the 16-race card amounted to a 2020 industry-best $5,730,615. That compares to 33 of 41 Meadowlands Racetrack dates surpassing $2.5 million in handle, with 10 of those topping $3 million.

As for the big race itself — the 11th of the day — $845,469 was wagered, an increase of 61% over 2019.

The Meadowlands Racetrack now is on a three-week hiatus, returning on Sept. 5. and then running on weekends for the rest of the calendar year.

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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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