“Just another horse race” the gambler told me regarding the Adios. He was referring to the fact the Adios is no longer raced in heats. He further laments by scheduling the Adios before the Hambletonian, when the Meadowlands runs all the big stakes races, many of the top horses who used to make a visit to the Pittsburgh area oval are now MIA. For the first time in thirty years, this fan who is a serious gambler intends to skip the annual pilgrimage to The Meadows.
In many ways, the same can be said about the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks. In an effort to become more friendly to television and to make things easier for simulcast gamblers, the Hambletonian Society years ago decided to eliminate not only the need to win two races in one day, it decided to eliminate heats and go to eliminations the week before. Yes, Hambletonian Day is still special, but it has more to do with the Hambletonian and Oaks being two of nine stakes races being contested that day (the others being the Merrie Annabelle, Peter Haughton Memorial, Mistletoe Shalee, US Pacing Championship, Nat Ray, Lady Liberty, and Oliver Wendell Holmes) than the specific races themselves.
Make no mistake, for people in the industry, these races are important. For the winning owner, a lucrative pay day and if the Hambletonian winner is a colt, a lucrative syndication deal and demand in the breeding shed awaits. For the racing public it is just another stakes race with a faulty elimination system.
It is not that I am a traditionalist. I have been calling for change in the sport; calling for more horses per race, varying distances; how horses qualify for stakes races. Change is inevitable; something this industry has been hesitant to embrace. But while change is inevitable, it doesn’t mean you need to give up the soul of who you are. When we eliminated heat racing in the Adios and Hambletonian, we did just that; we lost something which we may never get back. The Adios and Hambletonian were special, something different; now just another stakes race.
The Adios and Hambletonian were races of speed, endurance, and stamina. Fans saw something different; gamblers had another variable to consider in the mix. You do a disservice to the memory of champions like Speedy Crown and Abercrombie when you equate their victories to those of modern day winners as it cheapens the victory of those legends.
The Adios and Hambletonian were once something special. Now, they are just stakes races and we are poorer for it.
Here are my selections for the Adios final and the Hambletonian eliminations. As a reminder, the Meadows will be contesting the Adios race card Saturday afternoon.
The Meadows 11th Pace - $500,000; Delvin Miller Adios – 3yo Open
3 – Versado (D. Palone, 2-1)
4 – We Will See (B. Miller, 4-1)
9 – Rockin image (Y. Gingras, 3-1)
7 – I’m Gorgeous (A. Miller, 12-1)
Meadowlands 4th Trot - $70,000; Hambletonian Elimination #1 – 3yo Open
1 - Muscle Massive (R. Pierce, 9-5)
5 – Pilgrims Chuckie (T. Tetrick, 6-1)
4 – Pilgrims Taj (M. Lachance, 3-1)
2 – Winning Fireworks (J. Campbell, 15-1)
Meadowlands 5th Trot - $70,000; Hambletonian Elimination #2 – 3yo Open
5 – Lucky Chucky (J. Campbell, 7-2)
2 – Holiday Road (B. Sears, 9-5)
7 – He’s A Demon (J. Jamieson, 9-2)
3 – Coco Lindy (T. Tetrick, 10-1)
Meadowlands 6th Trot - $70,000; Hambletonian Elimination #3 – 3yo Open
5 – Cassis (T. Tetrick, 3-1)
3 – Temple of Doom (D. Miller, 5-2)
4 – Pretty Boy Lindy (G. Brennan, 6-1)
2 – On The Tab (Y. Gingras, 5-1)