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Plainridge Park opens the 2017 racing season on Monday
Monday, April 10, 2017 - by Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

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Plainville, MA --- The 18th season of live harness racing at Plainridge Park kicks off on Monday (April 10) with a 10-race card that offers a total of $57,400 in purses. Post time for the first race is scheduled for 4 p.m.

 
USTA/Mark Hall photo
The 18th season of live harness racing at Plainridge Park kicks off on Monday (April 10).

New England’s best horses and horsemen are ready to hit the track for another season of fast times at “The Ridge” with many enhancements made to the program.

The new meet will welcome back some familiar faces on the track. The 2016 leading dash driver Greg Merton will defend his crown against the likes of Jim Hardy, Eddie Davis Jr., Chris Long, Steve Nason and Jimmy Whittemore. Saratoga Raceway regular Bruce Aldrich Jr. will also join the fray opening week.

Last year, Merton set a track record for wins with 231 and became the first driver ever at Plainridge to exceed $1 million in purses won, banking more than $1.3 million for the meet.

The top three trainers from 2016 were only three wins apart at the end of the meet and they will all be back to battle again this year. Heidi Rohr (who took top honors) will look to fend off Jim Hardy and Frank Antonacci, who finished right on her heels. And after 16 qualifying races last week, many of the other local trainers have their stock ready to roll as well.

Among the highlights of the 2017 meet are expanded race dates, the largest single purse ever offered for a Standardbred race in the state and an enriched Massachusetts Sire Stake program that will showcase the best state-bred juveniles in the fall.

This year, Plainridge Park will host 125 days of racing that will run through Friday (Nov. 24). There will be racing three days a week in April on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday rotation. Then in May, Plainridge adds Friday and goes to four days a week for the remainder of the season.

Post time for the first race each day is 4 p.m. through Friday (Sept. 1). Then for the month of September and October, it rolls back to 2:30 p.m. And in November, it moves back once again to 1 p.m.

There will be no racing on Monday (July 3), Tuesday (July 4), Monday (Sept. 4) and Thursday (Nov. 23).

Plainridge Park will feature a new bet this year called the Wicked Hi 5 which will be offered in the sixth race each day. It’s a pentafecta wager where you need to correctly select the horses that finish first through fifth in the race. The Wicked Hi-5 is a 20-cent wager and features a carryover pool if it’s not won.

Plainridge Park has also initiated a new signature stake that will host the best Open class trotters in North America. The $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot will be contested on Friday (July 28) and features the biggest Standardbred purse ever offered in the state.

The race was a result of the expanded gaming at Plainridge Park Casino which has solidified the racing program, and management’s commitment to providing a fun and exciting on-track atmosphere for their fans. This race will also let the national racing scene know that Massachusetts harness racing is back on the map.

The Spirit of Massachusetts should feature many of the same trotters that will compete a week later in the Cashman Memorial held at the Meadowlands during the Hambletonian Day card on Saturday (Aug. 5).

The 2017 season will also present the largest amount of purse money ever offered for state-bred Standardbreds. This year, the Massachusetts Sire Stakes program is worth an estimated $1.3 million and will highlight the best 2- and 3-year-old trotters and pacers in the state.

The program boasts a growing number of eligibles due to an influx of breeding interest in one of the fastest growing stakes programs of its kind. Much like the overnight racing at Plainridge, the Sire Stake program’s growth is a direct result of the slot revenue generated at the casino.

There are five dates to note with regards to this year’s Sire Stakes competition. Preliminary races will be held on Monday (Sept. 25), Monday (Oct. 2), Monday (Oct. 23) and Monday (Oct. 30). And the finals for both gaits and genders will go on Monday (Nov. 6).

For more information on all the live racing action at Plainridge Park throughout the year, log onto the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts (www.sominc.net) or Plainridge Park Casino (www.plainridgeparkcasino.com).


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