harness racing

Yonkers Raceway Featuring ‘Night Of Champions’ On Friday

Yonkers Raceway is a viable live racing option for many Meadowlands Racetrack Friday night regulars during much of August and October when the East Rutherford, N.J., track is dormant.

And on Friday, the venerable track about 20 miles north and east of The Big M goes head-to-head with the Meadowlands by offering a particularly alluring card.

The $1.6 million “Night of Champions” presents eight racing finals for the New York Sire Stakes as the core of a 10-race card.

The event features different divisions that include male/female, trot/pace, and 2-year-olds/3-year-olds. Post time is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Each of the races includes $200,000 in winnings for the top five finishers.

The 32nd running of the Night of Champions is an opportunity to celebrate New York’s breeding and agriculture industry. Horses contend for several months at all seven New York harness track locations to obtain enough points to qualify for the Night of Champions showcase. The top eight point-earners in each division have qualified for the New York Sire Stakes finals.

Look for upgrades at Yonkers

Those who haven’t crossed the Hudson River to catch Yonkers races recently may notice the fruits of the $500,000 in upgrades to the track, including the installation of all-new LED track lighting and track resurfacing. The turns were also raised by as much as a foot with the goal of improving race quality.

“Since acquiring [Empire City Casino in 2019, along with the adjacent racetrack], MGM Resorts has continued to make significant investments in the harness racing sport as we welcome the Night of Champions back to Yonkers Raceway,” said MGM Chief Financial Officer Ed Domingo in a statement. “MGM is committed to upholding the treasured legacy of our historic raceway as one of the premier harness racing venues, not only in the United States, but around the globe.”

Two-year-old trotting filly Joviality S, with Brian Sears driving for trainer Marcus Melander, is undefeated in the sire stakes program this year, but will post position 8 be an issue?

Justice and Cool Papa Bell — named after a Baseball Hall of Fame former Negro Leagues player — again square off next in the 2-year-old colt and gelding trot final, while the pacers version follows with what looks to be a relatively wide-open field.

Tim Tetrick, Yannick Gingras, and Dexter Dunn all have serious contenders in the race for rookie pacing fillies, while Iteration seeks to defend her crown in the sophomore trotting fillies division.

Race 7, for 3-year-old filly pacers, features Test Of Faith as the likely favorite, with 3-year-old gelding Ahundreddollarbill looking to break another track record while also holding off Hambletonian third-place finisher Ambassador Hanover.

The last Night of Champions race, for 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers, matches defending champ King James Express with hard-charging Town Gossip.

And down the stretch we come

Yonkers’ 2021 schedule kicked off on Jan. 11, and the track has featured races every Monday through Friday night except for May 28-June 6. The same schedule will be in place until the year’s finale on Friday, Dec. 17.

At the Meadowlands, races continue this Friday and Saturday night as well as next, before a three-week hiatus until racing resumes on Oct. 22. Weekend racing then follows through Dec. 18, with a resumption on New Year’s Eve.

More live harness racing takes place at Freehold Raceway on Friday and Saturday afternoons — post time 12:30 p.m. — through Dec. 18, but without a Dec. 31 return as occurs at the Meadowlands.

On Saturday, the Meadowlands will present its fifth annual Beerfest event from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. along with its evening racing card. A $45 fee includes admission, a tasting glass, and a four-hour sampling, as well as educational seminars.

A Battle For The Best Burger, a chili cookoff and a pork roll-eating contest also are coming up soon at the Big M.

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