Cranbury, NJ — The Hambletonian Society and The Meadowlands Racetrack have signed a two-year contract extension guaranteeing the host venue of the $1.2 million Hambletonian, $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks and the $400,000 Hambletonian Maturity through 2023.
The Meadowlands has been the longest-running host track of America’s Classic Trotting event, having held the race for 37 years since the Society relocated the race from the Du Quoin State Fair in Illinois to The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J., in 1981. It is traditionally held the first Saturday in August, with this year’s $1.2 million event slated for Aug. 3. The race is simulcast internationally and attracts record wagering handle and attendance at the north Jersey track.
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Hambletonian Society,” said Jeff Gural, CEO of Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. “We pride ourselves on showcasing world-class harness racing and the Hambletonian, Hambletonian Oaks and Hambletonian Maturity are an important part of our Championship Meet.”
John Campbell, president and CEO of the Hambletonian Society, echoed those sentiments.
“We are extremely pleased with our relationship with the Meadowlands, and consider the Meadowlands the true home of the Hambletonian. The Society is delighted with the resurgence of harness racing in New Jersey and the Hambletonian contract extension is another indication of the strength and permanence of the sport in the Garden State.”
The Hambletonian has undergone multiple format changes and been raced at six host tracks since 1926. The racing conditions allow for flexibility in the format, and in 2020 eliminations will be contested the week before to determine the final field. Hambletonian No. 95 is set for Aug. 8, 2020.
Prior to 1991, entrants had to win two heats to be declared the Hambletonian winner, though that only occurred three times in Meadowlands history. From 1991-1996, the same day heat format was still utilized, but the winner of the final heat was declared the Hambletonian winner. In 1997 the eliminations moved to the week before the event so the Meadowlands could create a week-long Hambletonian Festival, including Breeders Crown Open races. When Jeff Gural leased the Meadowlands from the state of New Jersey in 2011, same day heats were put back into play for the race in 2012, and will remain through the race of 2019.
“The flexibility in the conditions allows the Society to always act in the best interest of the race, the sport, our host track partners and most importantly the health and welfare of the horse,” continued Campbell.
Eligibility to the Hambletonian begins each year with a May 15 yearling nomination and continues with sustaining payments through a horse’s 2- and 3-year-old year. There are no supplements to the Hambletonian or Oaks.
The Hambletonian is the first leg of the trotting Triple Crown. It is currently the only harness race to be broadcast on network TV, and has been for more than 30 years.