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1/6 - 9/16



  The Little-M !     

The Meadowlands park Logo In September of 1976, The Meadowlands opened under the lights operated by  the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Planed as a multi function facility with both harness and thoroughbred racing, it quickly became apparent that The Meadowlands would become the Mecca of harness racing in the United States. In 1977 the prestigious Meadowlands Pace and Woodrow Wilson Pace, had their inaugural runs. Later that year, turf coarse and all the thoroughbreds took to the track, for what would be their traditional short fall meet. There were some Graded Stakes races over the years, which did draw some talented runners, but nowhere near the talent that ran on the standardbred side.   

Hamblbletonian AdIn the early eighties The Meadowlands pulled of a major coup, when it wrestled away the Hambletonian (The Kentucky Derby of harness racing)from The Du Quoin Fair Grounds, where it had run since 1957. A gelding named Shiaway St. Pat, would take the initial Meadowlands race in 1981. Unfortunately being gelded he had no stud value and was quickly faded from the spotlight. He slowly descended the racing ladder, untill he was discovered in 1988 neglected on a horse farm. To their credit The Meadowlands Management bought the poor guy and moved him to Paddock Park at the track. Until 1995 he would mingle with the crowd in the park and once a year hit the track to lead the Hambletonian Post Parade. He lived out his life at a farm for retired standardbreds until his passing in 2010. For the rest of the eighties things were going well at the track where "people played Monopoly with real money. In 1985 simulcasting came to The Meadowlands and a new racing series "Million Dollar Babies" was introduced.

The nineties were more of the same for The Meadowlands as top quality racing continued on both front. During the decade two mutual records were broken. The quality of racing at the standardbred meets has been so outstanding that since it's first meet that thirty four consecutive harness horses of the year have raced on the East Rutherford Oval.

The turn of the century started out OK. In 2001 The Meadowlands ran it's first fall harness meet but by mid decade the wheels were starting to wobble on the bike. In 2006 The Meadowlands, received a double whammy, as a new player emerged and an old nemesis re-tooled. In Pennsylvania a new harness track Harrah's Chester opened as a racino and across the river, Yonkers Raceway which was displaced by The Meadowlands as the premiere harness track in the country re-opened with a racino format. As if things weren't bad enough, then came the economic downturn of 2008. By the end of 2009 the thoroughbred's had run their last race at the oval and the harness racing was barely hanging on. Once the poster child for New Jersey racing, a panel appointed by the governor in 2010 recommended the facility be shut down now that it wasn't profitable. Luckily a deal was struck between the State and a harness horseman at the eleventh hour to save it from NASCAR.

In 2013 new owner Jeff Gural, has really turned things around, no he really turned things around. When he took over ownership the first thing he did was set in motion plans to build a smaller, friendlier facility directly across from the existing grandstand. On Saturday, November 23, the New Meadowlands, about one third the size of the original carded it's first races, with the finish line now on the old backstretch and the old finish line now on the backstretch. As for thoroughbred racing a brief nine day Monmouth at Meadowlands, turf racing only meet was held in October. Seeing as Gural is a harness guy, the thoroughbreds will probably not be a priority. To his credit Gural has turnred around Vernon and Tioga Downs, both in mid New York State but both of those tracks have a racino format. Only time will tell.