The inaugural Hambletonian Maturity drew a full field of 14 trotters for the $484,850 mile and one-eighth event on July 5 at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Created by the Hambletonian Society and the Meadowlands as a racing opportunity for the previous year's Hambletonian and Oaks-eligible horses, the event drew both the 2013 Oaks winner and Dan Patch Horse of the Year, Bee A Magician and the Hambletonian champion, Royalty For Life.
Though not a new concept–a race for older Hambletonian eligibles was sometimes included in the Hambletonian Stakes from the 1930s to the early ‘70s, the 21st century version was created in 2011 when the Hambletonian Society saw an opportunity to provide an additional stake event for 4 year olds returning to the races.
"In 2011 we signed a new host agreement with The Meadowlands for the Hambletonian and included a Maturity, capitalizing on the industry trend and Jeff Gural's desire to see horses continue racing through extended careers,” said Tom Charters president of the Hambletonian Society, which owns and administrates the race.
"In order to do it as a stake we needed to start funding it back in 2012. We also wanted it to have a different distance and larger field. The SBOA of NJ and the Meadowlands have been great partners all along and saw the value in doing an innovative race like this.”
Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural echoed those sentiments about a race that provides a unique spectacle in its first edition.
"Keeping our stars on the racetrack is vital to the appeal of our industry to its fans. This race was created with that ideology in mind. Having 14 horses going a mile and one-eighth for $484,850 is literally something we never see and I think this is a race that can really captivate the fans.”
Like the Hambletonian and Oaks, the Maturity conditions prohibit the use of Lasix, the only race day medication permitted in New Jersey. The distance of a mile and eighth provides a fairer shot for the possibility of 16 horses on the gate.
With no eliminations, post positions were determined by an open draw.
All starters in the race will receive money, with the winner receiving 50 percent of the purse. One percent of the total purse will be paid to the owners of those finalists finishing 6 through 14. The remainder of the purse for the Maturity will be divided 50-24-16-10 percent for the horses finishing second through fifth. (Hambletonian Society)