East Rutherford, NJ --- The first round of payments are in for the major Grand Circuit stakes to be raced in 2014 at the Meadowlands and the big news is the dramatic increase in the number of horses nominated to the $750,000 (est.) Meadowlands Pace.
A total of 58 3-year-old colt pacers were named to the race, nearly double the 2013 figure of 30, and boast the most accomplished freshmen from last season and a few upstarts among the nominees.
The eligibles include the recently named 2013 Dan Patch Award winning 2-year-old colt pacer He's Watching, Breeders Crown winner Luck Be Withyou, Metro hero Boomboom Ballykeel and Governor's Cup champ JK Endofanera. Both colts that won divisions of the Buddy Gilmour series so impressively this past Saturday, Capital Account and National Debt, have been paid in as well.
Several tweaks in the payment formula resulted in greater participation by nominators. The most noticeable change was the reduction in the nomination fee from $1,000 to $500. Another is the inclusion of a tiered entry fee replacing a flat fee of $6,000 to enter the elimination round to $2,500 to start in the elimination race and then $5,000 to continue on into the final.
Other changes are being implemented going forward which include for the first time a 2-year-old payment of $400 due March 15 on foals of 2012 which will result in a reduction of $2,000 in the sustaining payments for the 2015 Pace.
The goal is to maintain and eventually increase the purse of the race while at the same time reducing the burden on the nominators.
By mere association the Mistletoe Shalee filly companion stake leaped nearly 40 percent from 29 to 41.
Meadowlands General Manager and CEO Jason Settlemoir voiced his approval.
"It's gratifying to see our signature race experience such a resurrection. It took some thought by the racing department (Pete Koch, Darin Zoccali and Nick Salvi) to revise a payment plan that was no longer working. The improvement is welcome and appreciated.
"With better weather ahead and the stakes season on the horizon, there is certainly cause for optimism. Saturday past the place felt alive, the crowd was not only large but also engaged. There was definitely the type of buzz in the building that we are expecting for the new grandstand."
Across the board on the stakes menu results were mixed. Substantial increases were realized in the Peter Haughton Memorial and Merrie Annabelle, while a few more trotters were nominated to the Cashman Memorial and the TVG Trotting Championship. Those names include two noteworthy mares, Horse of the Year Bee A Magician and world record holder Maven. The older pacing mare stakes were up a bit as well.
The Del Miller for sophomore filly trotters took the biggest hit, down a third, and several of the stakes for open older pacers also declined appreciably while the quality of the nominees held up nicely.
Nominations for all the races are now posted on the Meadowlands website. Keep in mind that these lists are subject to omission/correction.