In a local online newspaper, Freehold Patch, there is an article titled Freehold Raceway Passes The Test of Time. While the article doesn't go into the current troubles at the Monmouth County oval, the headline could have easily been "Freehold Raceway Passes The Test of Time; Is the Clock Winding Down?". No doubt back to its beginnings in 1854 with a few interruptions, Freehold Raceway has been a track with a long history and tradition of harness racing with many greats such as Keystone Ore racing over the half mile oval.. At one point, the James B Dancer pace was a 'must' race for the best three year pacing colts in the country. Unfortunately, the James B Dancer is history as are many of the big races at Freehold. If not for the NJ-sired stakes races, stakes races would be history. At one time, Freehold Raceway was a track where horses a step below the Meadowlands raced. In fact, before the rise of the racino, horses which raced at Freehold Raceway on Saturdays could compete at the Big M on any other day and the weekday horses at Freehold could compete successfully at any track other than the Meadowlands. Saturday afternoon's $17,000 Preferred-Invitational pace was a race you stuck around to see, where horses like My Bill Forward and Caramore competed.
Now, those days are distant history. The Preferred-Invitational pace has been gone for a couple of years as are the winners over classes. Purses have been slashed. The track has gone from being the track horsemen wanted to race at if they couldn't race at the Meadowland to the track horsemen don't want to race at. Racinos and the loss of subsidies in lieu of slots have caused an upheaval in New Jersey, threatening the existence of both the Meadowlands and Freehold Raceway. Well, the Meadowlands has been saved, but Freehold, owned jointly by Greenwood Racing and Penn National Gaming, just manages to get by for now. These two partners are estranged with divergent interests; PNG suing Greenwood over their refusal to build an OTW where the old Garden State Park once stood as it may draw people away from away from Greenwood's racing assets across the river in Pennsylvania, denying Freehold much needed gambling revenue. An industry which shouted "Save the Meadowlands" barely acknowledged the existence of Freehold. Freehold Raceway has become the afterthought to all but those in New Jersey who race cheaper racing stock.
Even with slots, Freehold loses out. A deal has been made between the lessors of Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands that slot revenue would be split between the two tracks if either gets slot machines; no mention of Freehold at all. So unless the state decides to allow slots at all racetracks or mandates a split of any slot revenue which may arise include Freehold, the raceway will be depending on the largesse of Jeff Gural.
It would be a shame if time does indeed run out on Freehold, a track which has survived so much including fire. Perhaps Freehold's best chance of survival would be as a living museum such as Atlantic City Race Course; operate most of the year as an OTW and come alive one month a year, racing a boutique meet primarily for NJ sired and bred horses to allow people to remember when racing was special, and provide a lucrative meet for NJ produced horses at the same time.
While not discussing the races today, Saragota Harness features the Night of Champions for their NYSS divisions with each division racing for $175,000.
The Red Mile Meet kicks into high gear tonight with The Allerage Farms Opens for Trotters and Pacers; a chance to see North America's best compete over the famed oval. In addition, in the Bluegrass series, 3yo pacing fillies make their appearance for the first time in the short meet. Here is my analysis of the three races.
4th Trot - $145,000; The Allerage Farms Open
1 - Lucky Jim (A Miller, 3-1) - Winner at PcD5/8; still needs to show he can still compete against this type.
2 - Take My Picture (D Miller, 15-1) - Lightly raced 4yo is tested for class tonight. Can't recommend.
3 - Lanson (Lachance, 6-1) - Has been a step below; beat Arch Madness in Lex1 overnight. May land share.
4 - Arch Madness (Sears, 7-2) - One month layoff cost him victory last time. Main threat this week to first choice.
5 - San Pail (Waples, 5-2) - America finally learning what Canada has known. The one to beat.
6 - Il Villaggio (Jamieson, 9-2) - Has been there all year and due for a win. Question is it this week?
7 - Hot Shot Blue Chip (Campbell, 8-1) - His own worst enemy. Let him beat me.
6th Pace - $153,000; Bluegrass Series - 3yo Fillies
1 - Krispy Apple (Pierce, 3-1) - Draws rail and figures to be a factor in the race. Play at low odds? No.
2 - Strike An Attitude (Palone, 10-1) - Raced well at Delaware. Can spice up exotics.
3 - Foxy Lady (Dube, 8-1) - On two race win streak but hasn't been successful against this caliber.
4 - Cold Mist (Lachance, 15-1) - Winner of one race this year. Would be a major upset if show up at the wire.
5 - Honky Tonk Woman (Jamieson, 15-1) - Has not raced up to potential. Belongs with weaker caliber.
6 - Idyllic (D Miller, 5-2) - Without Peelers has become the new queen of pacing. Need ultra fast pace to defeat.
7 - Whats New Pussycat (Campbell, 15-1) - Can't figure why she's in here.
8 - Drop The Ball (Gingras, 7-2) - Seems to be improving, figures in exotics.
9 - Ace Of Pace 9sears, 15-1) - Appears to be racing to try to get a fast line on her. Don't see at all.
10 - Swinging Beauty (Mcnair, 10-1) - Won first leg of Jugette but seems impossible from here.
9th Pace - $183,000; The Allerage Farms Open
1 - We Will See (Pierce, 5-2) - Has finally come into his own. Gets the best of the draw.
2 - Dial Or Nodial (D Miller, 6-1) - The ideal overnight pacer; not with these.
3 - Atochia (Palone, 12-1) - Another one coming into his own but may be in deep.
4 - Bettor Sweet (Dube, 7-2) - Needs a trip to be a facotr.
5 - Aracache Hanover (McNair, 8-1) - Use the rail to win at Dela. This is tougher.
6 - Mach Dreamer (Waples, 15-1) - Seems to be in deep here.
7- One More Laugh (Campbell, 12-1) - Drops back to mile distance but has not regained 3yo form.
8 - Meirs Hanover (Sears, 15-1) - Nothing to recommend of late.
9 - Foiled Again (Gingras, 9-2) - A career year, Post hurst but can't be ignored.
10 - St Elmo Hero (Jamieson, 12-1) - Feel good story of the year but seems to be reaching.