East Rutherford, NJ — Last Saturday’s (Nov. 23) TVG/Fall Final Four Night at The Meadowlands promised an evening of incredible racing featuring a galaxy of harness racing stars.
And it delivered.
The four TVG finals for older horses yielded no winning favorites and left a somewhat blurry Horse of the Year picture even more out of focus.
The biggest surprise of the night came early for the backers of 1-9 favorite Atlanta, who got gunned down by Emoticon Hanover after a thrilling stretch duel in 1:51.4, giving Emoticon Hanover a second straight TVG Mares Trot championship.
In the TVG Open Pace, Always A Prince, being driven by Yannick Gingras for the first time, blasted down the road in a sizzling 1:48.2. Rallying for second was 2-1 public choice Bettor’s Wish, whose record for 2019 now stands at 13 wins and six seconds from 19 starts. He is the leading money-earning horse in the sport this year with a bank account of $1.64 million and figures in the Horse of the Year conversation.
Ake Svanstedt moved Six Pack at just the right moment and charged past 7-5 shot Manchego — who was seeking to beat the boys — in the TVG Open Trot in 1:50. It marked the final career start for Six Pack (the 3-2 second choice), who finished his career with 19 wins from 35 starts and earnings of $1.93 million. His 1:49.1 win in the 2018 Kentucky Futurity is the fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old on the trot.
The last of the TVG Finals — the Mares Pace — brought high drama, as 1-2 favorite Shartin N was looking to hang on to the top spot in the Horse of the Year race facing her arch-rival — and 3-1 second choice — Caviart Ally. The stretch duel was as thrilling as they get, and at the wire, Caviart Ally had her third consecutive win over Shartin N in a race of great significance (the Breeders Crown and Allerage were the other two), this time by a nose in 1:48.3.
The Fall Final Four for 2-year-olds featured some pulse-pounding performances as well.
Papi Rob Hanover was much the best as the 1-9 public choice in the Governor’s Cup for colts and geldings on the pace while 1-2 favorite — and Breeders Crown champion — Amigo Volo went off stride early, paving the way for EL Ideal (3-1 second choice) to go wire-to-wire in the Valley Victory for male trotters.
Senorita Rita, the even-money choice, got up just in time to catch Sister Sledge after a stretch battle in the Goldsmith Maid for filly trotters while 3-1 second choice JK First Lady powered home after rallying three-wide at three-quarters to take the Three Diamonds for filly pacers. Lyons Sentinel, the 1-2 public choice, finished third.
In addition to Six Pack retiring, others making their final starts Saturday included Hannelore Hanover, a lifetime earner of more than $3 million who goes out as one of the top female trotters in the history of the game; 2018 Horse of the Year McWicked, who finished fifth behind Always A Prince and completes his career with a staggering bankroll of $4.93 million; and 2018 Meadowlands Pace winner Courtly Choice, whose lifetime best of 1:47.1 came in the Big M’s signature pacing event.
Tough Night For Top 10: None of the seven horses in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown Top 10 Poll who raced Saturday emerged victorious.
In addition to No. 8 Atlanta, No. 2 Bettor’s Wish, No. 10 McWicked, No. 5 Manchego and No. 1 Shartin N, No. 4 Warrawee Ubeaut — a 3-year-old who took on older — finished fourth in the TVG Mares Pace while No. 6 Gimpanzee — another sophomore that took on elders — finished fourth in the TVG Open Trot.
Let The Debate Begin: While Shartin N remains the favorite to take home the Horse of the Year trophy, there will no doubt be some voters who will cast their ballots elsewhere.
“The Meadowlands was proud to host an unforgettable night of racing,” said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “The TVG races showcased the best of the best and featured several much-anticipated match-ups of top 3-year-olds taking on some of the outstanding older horses in training. We watched the stars of the future in the Fall Final Four and we said goodbye to some of our greatest stars who were honored in retirement ceremonies. The TVG Finals, in unison with the Fall Final Four, certainly was the perfect way to close out a sensational Meadowlands 2019 stakes season.”
On The Calendar: Racing resumes this weekend on Friday and Saturday with a first-race post time of 7:15 p.m. This will be the last two-card race week of the year as during the month of December, racing will be conducted on a thrice weekly basis, Thursday through Saturday.
On Nov. 29, card players who are 21 or older can play Texas Hold’em on “Free Poker Friday,” hosted by World Free Poker.
Bring your appetite on Saturday (Nov. 30), for the Big M’s third annual Pork Roll Eating Contest. First prize is $500.
Toys For Tots: Come on out to the track on Monday (Dec. 2) and bring an unwrapped toy for a child at Harlem Grown. Not only will you help a youngster have a happy holiday, but you will also get to greet New York Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa — the honorary Captain of the 2019 Toys for Tots Campaign — as the U.S. Marine Toys for Tots annual holiday toy drive reception takes place at The Meadowlands.
FOX5 sportscaster Tina Cervasio will host the event, where some of Enunwa’s Jets teammates are expected to attend.
For those who cannot make it but would like to help, they can bring a new, unwrapped toy to the track between now and the night of the event.
Fanduel Holiday Schedule: Here is the holiday operating schedule for the Big M’s FanDuel Sportsbook:
• Thanksgiving Day: 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
• Christmas Eve: 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
• Christmas Day: Closed
• New Year’s Eve: 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
• New Year’s Day: 10 a.m.–1 a.m.
For more information, go to playmeadowlands.com/fanduel.