Meadowlands to increase banking in turns
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Although live racing at the Meadowlands is currently on hiatus, the quest to continue to improve the best product harness racing has to offer never sleeps.
Playing a large role in that pursuit of excellence is the competitiveness of the races, which is a compilation of many and various elements. It is obvious that Standardbred racing has evolved into a speed favoring style of racing with horses being able to win from off the pace becoming a far less frequent occurrence.
Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural has long championed a more competitive style of racing and actively seeks answers to the question of how to make the track play more fairly to horses rallying from behind as they head into the stretch.
In a July meeting with the Meadowlands' regular drivers, the case was made by several of them that were the track turns banked more steeply it would reduce the momentum lost while racing on the outside through the final bend. European tracks were cited for their elevated turns and it was the opinion of those drivers that a more steeply banked turn may allow the horses racing two to three wide to sustain and even gain speed as they come out of the turn and straighten up into the stretch.
Gural agreed at that meeting to bank the Meadowlands' turns to the suggested angle. That task will be undertaken by track superintendent Ryan Napierala and his crew during the dark period and changes will be in place when live racing resumes.
"It's frustrating to see so many races won by horses that make the front early and hold up," said Gural. "I am always wanting the races to be more competitive and horses able to close into a win. The drivers said banking the turns would help, so I'm banking the turns. It should also make it easier on the horses as there won't be the stress on their legs as there is without much bank and maybe they won't tire as badly."
"I'm also hopeful this will remove another reason they use to give each other holes early in the races. Those 'professional courtesy' tucks change the complexion of the races completely. The drivers must recognize that they are accountable to more than just themselves and the people connected to the horse; they are also responsible to the bettor to give their horse the best chance to win. Just like everybody says, without the horseplayers there is no racing and I expect them to take this seriously."
The Meadowlands kicks off the Fall Meet on Oct. 11 with legs of the Kindergarten series followed by the TVG Fall Championships and the Freshman Fall Final Four. (Meadowlands)