East Rutherford, NJ — The Meadowlands will honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a special event Friday (Jan. 18) night, when they host a race that will feature African-American drivers exclusively in the first of 14 races on the card. Post time is 7:15 p.m.
Mike Cruse’s name will be one of the more recognizable to Meadowlands regulars. During his career, he’s won 282 races, the most recent coming at the Big M in May of last year when he and Mr Heaven hit the wire six lengths to the good in 1:51.
Yes, he is ready to compete, but also anxious to remind all fans why the event is taking place: To honor the birthday of the slain civil rights leader.
“Dr. King was always adamant about a better quality of life for black Americans,” said Cruse of Dr. King, who was born on Jan. 15, 1929, “and not only black Americans, but better quality of life for all Americans. He was a powerful guy. We have a lot of admiration for him.”
When the question of the lack of black participants in harness racing was raised, Cruse explained that they are there, just not in the high-visibility jobs.
“I just think it’s the way we position ourselves in the business,” he said. “There are a lot of black farriers, grooms and caretakers.”
“We are all highly enthused about the race,” said Cruse of himself and the nine drivers he’ll do battle with. “A lot of the black drivers don’t have the opportunity to drive in the limelight of the Meadowlands. Everyone wants to race at the mecca of the sport.”
Cruse is hopeful that the action will be fast and furious — at the windows.
“I would like to see everyone come out and bet the race,” he said. “We are a competitive field of drivers. You can’t bet your Tetricks or your Callahans in here. It’s a gambler’s paradise. Anyone can win the race.”
Cruse will be the guest on “In the Sulky,” which can be seen Friday night at 6:45 p.m. on the live simulcast presentation of “Racing from the Meadowlands.”
A Lot To Handle: There have been four race cards at the Big M thus far in 2019, and on each program, wagering has reached $2.5 million, with an average per race — over the 54 races — of $201,786. On Saturday (Jan. 12), a 2019-best $109,617 was pushed through the windows on the 50-Cent Pick-4 wager. The average pool thus far this year is $100,722. The 50-cent Pick-5 has done well since switching to the first race on the card, with an average pool of $58,917. Free program pages for the Pick-4 are available at www.ustrotting.com and www.playmeadowlands.com. Driver Dexter Dunn was red-hot last weekend (Jan. 11-12), winning seven times.
Conference Championship Day At Fanduel: The action will be huge on Sunday (Jan. 20) at the Big M’s FanDuel Sports Book when the Los Angeles Rams travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in the NFC Championship Game at 3:05 p.m. At 6:40 p.m., the AFC title match-up pits the New England Patriots — who are playing in their eighth consecutive conference championship — going to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs.
Eat At Pink’s, Where It’s OK To Wine: A limited number of seats remain for this Friday’s (Jan. 18) five-course Italian wine dinner in the Big M’s Pink Restaurant’s SkyBox Suites. The dinner is $70 per person. For reservations, call 201.460.4079.
WHHC Results: Stephanie Davis, James Michael, George Wagner and Tim Platt were the top four finishers, respectively, in last Saturday’s (Jan. 12) World Harness Handicapping Championship Qualifier, presented by DerbyWars.com, at the Meadowlands. The foursome will now advance to the WHHC final on April 13 at the Big M, which offers $150,000 in prize money (based on 150 entries). For a complete qualifier schedule, click here.