First of all, while I have my doubts, here is wishing all the horses in the Belmont Stakes a safe trip and hoping that California Chrome completes the elusive Triple Crown. Racing needs a bright spot and while it will not be a panacea, the Sport of Kings can use a 'feel good story'.
In an observation I must make, I belong to a harness racing group and it seems there is more talk about the Belmont Stakes and California Chrome than there typically is for any harness race I can recall and I am talking about big races, not the overnights.
Harness racing has a 'feel good story' going right now. Perfect Alliance, who was far from perfect last year is thus far perfect in 2014 under the tutelage of Julie Miller. Last night the 4yo trotting mare became 11 for 11 for the season winning an elimination for the Armbro Flight in a track record 1:51.4, now owning the record at both WEG tracks. I had doubts earlier in the year as she was racing in winter stakes at the Meadowlands but as the big girls returned to the racing wars, she has managed to step up to the challenge. Hard to believe this is the same horse which one only one race last year.
I am a firm believer of equilibrium and if one horse does well, another does not so great and unfortunately, this dubious honor goes to last year's horse of the year Bee A Magician who was defeated once again in her elimination of the Armbro Flight. This makes two losses in a row for the horse who went 13 for 13 last year. However, I have not given up on this mare. In a final some are downplaying for importance, I still expect a big match up between the two mares in next week's final and it may be a humdinger. Don't give up on Bee A Magician yet.
I know it is not meant as an insult, but I wish people would refer to Jason Settlemoir as something more than 'Jeff Gural's right hand man'. Settlemoir has proven to be a competent racetrack executive and should be recognized as such.
At the Meadowlands, racing cards are filled with series for horses that have raced at Freehold and lower class horses racing at the East Rutherford track. With Freehold Raceway closed for the season, it is nice to see racing opportunities being offered for these hard knocking horses, horses which otherwise would be forced to travel a far to get into the box. Tonight is a series named for one of my favorite horses which circled the Freehold oval (and others); The Caramore for older pacing males. With the big eliminations at Mohawk this weekend, many of the Meadowlands regulars are racing up north. A night to stay away? Heck no, with lessor known drivers racing, there is great opportunities for some great mutuel prices.
Speaking of the Meadowlands, today is a perfect example of it not being your typical racetrack. There are activities for everyone. The action begins at 9:30 with Breakfast with the Babies, then moves on to the Belmont Simulcast. After the Belmont, there is a seafood buffet in their dining area but for those who love food trucks, there will be a few of them serving seafood for those with a smaller budget. For those not big into harness racing, there is Gilbert Gottfried. You get the idea, while still primarily a racetrack, it is just as much an entertainment destination; something for everyone. Traditionalists may not like it but as important as handle is, revenue is just as important to a racetrack in paying the bills. A full house increases revenue.
While it is highly unlikely that racing will resume this year, it appears Jackson Raceway may be returning to action in 2015. Anything which gives harness racing a chance to survive in Michigan deserves a chance to revive the industry. Don't count Michigan out yet. For sure they have a long road to travel, but remember Quebec racing was considered dead and it is coming back, albeit slowly. The key is coming back.