Plainridge Park 2024 racing season gets underway Monday

Plainville, MA — Live harness racing returns to Massachusetts on Monday (April 15) at 4 p.m. when Plainridge Park kicks off its 2024 season with the best horses, drivers and trainers from New England reconvening for the next eight months over the lightning fast five-eighths-mile oval. The meet runs through Friday (Nov. 29).

The 110 day racing schedule for 2024 starts with a Monday-Tuesday-Thursday rotation from April through September, except for Tuesday (July 23), which is dark. There is also a special 2 p.m. matinee card on Sunday (July 21) for Spirit of Massachusetts Day.

Racing expands to four days a week for the rest of the meet when Friday is added on Sept. 20, with the exception of the track being dark on Thursday (Nov. 28) in observance of Thanksgiving. That race day will be contested on Wednesday (Nov. 27).

Post time for all race days from April through August is 4 p.m. (except for Sunday, July 23). In September and October post time rolls back to 2 p.m. and in November, it moves back one more time to 1 p.m.

Participating horse people will notice some big changes and improvements when they enter the paddock for the first time this year as many upgrades and improvements have been made. These include a complete renovation of the paddock office and driver’s lounge that includes new HVAC in both. There were also bathroom renovations done to both the men’s and ladies’ facilities, with the ladies being expanded to include two stalls and a shower area. The paddock itself received a fresh coat of paint on the outside, new interior walls, new windows with screens and new overhead entry doors.

As far as the action on the track goes, all the top Plainridge drivers will be returning this year.

Bruce Ranger, who led everyone for wins in 2023 with 152 and Matty “Ice” Athearn, who finished second to Ranger with 148, will return to battle for the top spot once again. Both surpassed $2 million in earnings at Plainridge last year and are the only two drivers to ever surpass that mark in a single meet.

Also looking for a driving title will be last year’s third place dash finisher (122 wins) Brett Beckwith, who has been on a tear since January. After falling just one vote shy of being named the United States Harness Writers Association’s 2023 Rising Star as a result of his career year, Beckwith has shown his drive to claim that honor in 2024.

Right now, Beckwith sits second for dash wins among all drivers in North America with 180, just 22 behind perennial leader Aaron Merriman (202). Beckwith has already banked in excess of $1.2 million in purses this year and is on course to break all his personal single season numbers. Plus, the 21-year-old Beckwith is only 18 wins shy of his 1,000th career victory.

Nick Graffam, Kevin Switzer Jr., Jimmy Hardy and Jay Randall will also be back along with the rest of the Plainridge driver colony.

On the training side, Jimmy Nickerson, who was last year’s leading trainer with 77 wins and over $1 million in earnings for the second year in a row, will be looking to defend his title with a large stable of horses that has within it, a lot of new faces. His main rival looks to be conditioner Mark Beckwith (Brett’s father), who is also campaigning a large and powerful stable. Beckwith is currently the 12th leading percentage trainer in North America, boasting a .417 UTR on the strength of his strong winter/spring campaign, primarily at Saratoga Casino Hotel.

Besides horses who have been racing elsewhere over the winter leading up to this meet, Plainridge will also benefit from a lot of fresh stock in the early portion of the session as 104 horses just qualified at The Ridge this past week in preparation for making their first starts of the year during opening week.

The 2024 meet will once again be offering its richest slate of stake races — not only in the history of the track, but also the state of Massachusetts — as an estimated $3.71 million will be up for grabs during the year.

There will be a total of eight Grand Circuit races offering a combined bounty of $710,000.

First on the schedule is the $100,000 Paul Revere Open Pace for 3-year-olds which will be held on Thursday (May 2). Then on Thursday (May 16), the $100,000 Battle of Bunker Hill Open Trot will return.

On Sunday (July 21) it’s the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot and $100,000 Clara Barton Distaff Pace. Both of these races have rewritten track records several times since their inception and have enticed some of the best Open class competitors from across North America to compete at Plainridge.

Then on Monday (Oct. 7) it’s the Reynolds Stake for 3-year-old pacers, which will be contested by gender. The Tar Heel is the $40,000 colt and gelding division and The Leta Long is the $40,000 fillies division.

Held on the same day, the $40,000 Colonial Trot for 3-year-old trotters is the companion stake to the Reynolds and will also be contested by gender with the filly division going as the $40,000 Colonial Oaks.

Then the fall classic $3 million (est.) Massachusetts Sire Stakes start on Monday (Sept. 23) and features three preliminary legs before culminating on Thursday (Oct. 24), when eight $150,000 (est.) finals will be contested.

Here is a complete schedule for this year’s Massachusetts Sire Stakes:

Monday (Sept. 23)
3-year-old First Leg

Tuesday (Sept. 24)
2-year-old First Leg

Monday (Sept. 30)
3-year-old Second Leg

Tuesday (Oct. 1)
2-year-old Second Leg

Monday (Oct. 14)
2-year-old Third Leg

Tuesday (Oct. 15)
3-year-old Third Leg

Thursday (Oct. 24)
2- and 3-year-old Finals

These stake races were made possible by the continued support of the Race Horse Development Fund and the local horsemen and women of the Harness Horseman’s Association of New England.

This year’s betting menu includes an early and late daily double, exactas and trifectas available in every race, superfectas available in every race (except Wicked Hi-5 races), Wicked Hi-5 Pentafecta in the sixth and ninth race, Pick-3 in race three and race six and Pick-4 in race four. Minimum wagers are as follows: daily double – $2, exacta $2, Pick-3 – $1, Pick-4 – 50-cents, trifecta – $2, superfecta – 20-cents and Wicked Hi-5 – 20-cents.

Fans on hand for live racing this year will have the opportunity to take part in a year-long $37,500 handicapping contest that will run from March through September. The contest is free to enter but you must be at least 18 years of age to play. Entry forms will be available at the program stand at the track starting at 4 p.m. the day prior to each contest.

With the kick-off $5,000 March 30 round already in the books, this is a list of the remaining contest races this year:

Saturday (March 30) – $5,000 World Cup
Saturday (April 20) – $5,000 Derby Prep
Friday (May 31) – $5,000 Penn Mile
Saturday (June 22) – $7,500 Summer Solstice
Saturday (Aug. 24) – $10,000 Travers
Friday (Sept. 27) – $5,000 Invitational

Players entering any four of the five handicapping contests from March 30 through Aug. 24 will receive an automatic entry to participate in the Invitational.

Once again, fans will be able to download free full past performance programs from the Plainridge Park website at, where they can also find more information pertaining to the upcoming meet.

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