Plainridge ready for April 8 opener
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When Plainridge Park opens their doors to welcome racing fans to the start of the 2019 live harness racing meet on Monday, Apr. 8, they will also be celebrating their 20th year of operations hosting the Standardbred sport.
Plainridge Park (then Plainridge Racecourse) held their grand opening in April of 1999 when an overflow crowd of 4,500 guests filled the parking lots and jammed the grandstand to witness the first live harness racing in the Commonwealth since Foxboro Park closed two years earlier. The track offered 14 races that first afternoon with an average purse of $3,900. Fans cheered as Worth Mentioning won the very first race by 12 lengths in 2:00.1 with Steve Smith driving.
Two decades later, Plainridge Park has risen to new heights on the strength of the new $115 million casino complex that opened in 2015. Since then the racing product has benefited from enhanced overnight purses of up to $20,000 per race as a result ever since thanks to the proceeds from gaming that go towards the track’s purse account through the Massachusetts Race Horse Development Fund.
Since the casino opened the facility at Plainridge Park has created significant economic benefits for local residents by generated as much as $186 million in annual revenue as well as employ 500 people who work at the site as stated in a December 2018 report by the University of Massachusetts.
Plainridge Park’s 2019 meet features 108 days of live harness racing held every Monday, Thursday and Friday through Nov. 29. Sunday racing will be added from Sept. 29 through Oct. 27. Post time is scheduled for 4 p.m. on all race days through August. It will then move to 2 p.m. during September and October and move once more to 1 p.m. for the final month of racing in November.
Plainridge Park will continue to offer exciting wagering opportunities which includes the 20-cent Jackpot Wicked Hi-5, which will now be offered twice daily in races six and nine. Plainridge also offers full card harness and Thoroughbred simulcasting seven days a week.
On the track, three millionaire drivers who made serious money for their connections at the Ridge last year will be back to ply their trade once again in 2019.
2018 leading driver Drew Campbell will return to defend his driving title and see if he can improve on his stellar 160-win and $1.25 million earnings season of a year ago. Also returning will be 21-year-old rising star Mitchell Cushing, who finished second with 139 wins and just over $1 million in purses. And rounding out this teaming trifecta is Shawn Gray who finished third in the standings, scoring 125 victories and $1.23 million in earnings.
All three drivers registered career highs for money won last year and Campbell and Gray finished fourth and eighth respectively among all drivers in North America in Universal Driver Rating (UDR).
The tracks signature race, the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot, will return in 2019 after a year’s absence and will be held on Sunday (July 28). The race will draw North America’s top aged trotters and put the track in the National spotlight once again over the summer.
Also on that same card will be the newly instituted $100,000 Clara Barton Pace which is an Open event for fillies and mares.
Plainridge Park will also host the Massachusetts Sire Stakes (MASS) starting in September. Three preliminary legs for both gaits and genders valued at a total of $840,000 (est.) and eight finals totaling $800,000 (est.) make the $1.64 million 2019 MASS the richest races of the meet at Plainridge.
State sponsored Standardbred breeding in Massachusetts is one of the fastest growing programs of its type in North America on the strength of its rapidly increasing purse account.
2-year-old eligibles have increased 50% since 2017 and resident mares have gone up 30% during that same time. Owners and breeders from the northeastern United States and Southern Ontario are taking advantage of breeding horses that have the ability to compete in two separate sire stake programs as a result of the resident mare rule in Massachusetts which allows any sire from any state to be bred to them, giving the offspring dual-eligibility.
The 2019 MASS race dates are Sunday (Sept. 29) 3-year-old First Leg $35,000 added; Monday (Sept. 30) 2-year-old First Leg $35,000 added; Sunday (Oct. 6) 3-year-old Second Leg $35,000 added; Monday (Oct. 7) 2-year-old Second Leg $35,000 added; Sunday (Oct. 20) 2-year-old Third Leg $35,000 added; Monday (Oct. 21) 3-year-old Third Leg $35,000 added; Monday (Oct. 28) 2 and 3-year-old Finals $100,000 est.
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 ). (Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts)