Considering the massive upheaval of sporting event schedules in this COVID-19 pandemic year, this one doesn’t quite make it to the top of the list.
Still, it is quite unusual that New Jersey’s thoroughbred event of the year, The Haskell, and harness racing’s biggest night of the year, the Meadowlands Pace, take place just hours apart on Saturday.
In some years the events occur on the same weekend, and in others on consecutive weekends.
But in this truncated summer of sports, this time they nearly collide. And for each, there are severe limits for the public.
The Haskell at Monmouth Park normally attracts up to 60,000 spectators, but not this year. Instead, two sets of 500 tickets were sold in the past week.
A$100 ticket covers parking, admission, a program, and a Haskell commemorative hat among the amenities. Entrance is via the grandstand beginning at noon for the first race, with patrons receiving a temperature check and filling out a health check questionnaire similar to the one required the last few weekends at the Meadowlands.
Another 500 tickets costing $150, which may still be available, get visitors a spot outside the Blu Grotto Italian steakhouse area and four hours of bar service in addition to the other amenities. Ticketholders for the Blu Grotto special packages will be admitted through the picnic area entrance gate.
The seven-horse feature race has Bob Baffert-trained Authentic as a morning line favorite at 4-5, followed by Dr. Post at 5-2 and NY Traffic at 7-2.
Virtual enjoyment of The Haskell
Since most fans won’t be able to attend firsthand, Monmouth Park has launched a “[email protected]” plan.
By using #HaskellatHome and #HaskellBestDressed on Facebook and Instagram, fans are encouraged to “dress to impress” and to show off their Haskell @ Home festivities for the chance to have their picture featured on Monmouth Park’s social media as well as the NBC Haskell broadcast that will run from 5 to 6 p.m.
Fans can also enjoy a Summer Wind — the official drink of the TVG.com Haskell — from the comfort of home, as well as Monmouth Park’s grilled Mexican street corn and grilled ribeye steak sandwich. Recipes for each are featured online.
TVG.com Haskell fans can purchase a commemorative 2020 Haskell hat through the Monmouth Park online store, and there’s even a recommended playlist of [email protected] tunes.
The Haskell card will be televised on TVG before switching to NBC for the featured race. In previous years, the Haskell followed the three Triple Crown races on the schedule and featured some epic rematches as well as first-time showdowns between horses whose schedules hadn’t meshed for those races.
But this year, the Belmont Stakes has already gone off first, to be followed by the Haskell, the Preakness Stakes, and, lastly, the Kentucky Derby.
With that in mind, BetMakers is offering a $1 million bonus for any horse that can win the Haskell, Derby, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2020. The Haskell, the Breeders’ Cup, and a race to be determined will be included in a similar promotion for the next two years.
Meadowlands Pace innovations
The annual festivities with a 13-race card at the Meadowlands Racetrack Saturday night are highlighted by the feature ninth race for 3-year-olds, which carries a purse of $636,650 and a post time of 9:55 p.m.
That means that “amphibious” horse players can catch the full card at Monmouth Park and then drive an hour-plus up the Garden State Parkway to catch a segment of Meadowlands Pace races that kick off at 6:30 p.m.
Among the expanded betting options for the Meadowlands Pace are (all with a reduced 15% takeout):
- 20-cent Pick-5 (Races 1-5, $50,000 guaranteed pool)
- 50-cent All Stakes Pick-4 (Races 6-9, $100,000 guarantee)
- 20-cent Pick-6 (Races 8-13)
- 20-cent Pick-5 (Races 9-13)
- 50-cent Pick-4 (Races 10-13)
- 20-cent Jackpot Super High-Five (Race 11, $65,089 carryover, mandatory payout, estimated pool $200,000)
Visitors will be capped at 25% capacity, but the outdoor area of the East Rutherford site should offer plenty of room for patrons to eat and drink at the Backyard BBQ area. The weather forecast is superb, anticipating evening temperatures in the mid-70s with a light breeze expected.
Dining at the West Deck may still be available for those who make reservations.
One nice touch: For the first time since mid-March, triumphant owners will be allowed into the post-race winner’s circle.
Social distancing and wearing of masks will be strictly enforced, and it is highly recommended that bettors allow ample time to queue up at the track’s single entrance.
Photo provided by Shutterstock
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