The curtain came down on the 2017 live harness racing season at Plainridge Park on Friday afternoon with many outstanding human and equine performances to mention from the 125-day meet.
Greg Merton was the leading dash driver with 230 victories and those starts earned his connections $1.509 million in purses. Both numbers were new track records, smashing the same records Merton set last year. Merton was also the leading UDRS driver (with a minimum of 100 starts at the meet) with a glowing percentage of .475.
Jim Hardy was second for both wins and earnings with 109 tallies and $745,663 in the bank.
Monique Cohen was the meet’s leading trainer with 71 wins for the session while Frank Antonacci led in UTRS (with a minimum of 100 starts at the meet) with a stellar .596 and in earnings with $467,917 deposited. All totals for both Cohen and Antonacci were new track records.
The horses themselves were responsible for setting some records as well during 2017. There were 11 track records broken and two more that were tied during the course of the meet.
The biggest day of harness racing ever held at Plainridge Park as well as in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was responsible for two of those track records when some of the best older trotters from the Grand Circuit convened at The Ridge on Friday, July 28.
The old standard of 1:53 for an older trotter was first beaten by Gural Hanover (Matt Kakaley) in 1:52.1. And then just one race later in Plainridge’s signature event, the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot, JL Cruze (Andrew McCarthy) scorched the oval in 1:51.2 to break it again.
The recently concluded Massachusetts Sire Stakes also set record numbers. The state-bred program distributed in excess of $1.44 million in purses which was the highest amount ever for that series and the horses that participated in those events were responsible for breaking eight stakes records and also tying one more.
In the three years since Plainridge Park has opened its gaming floor the effect on the racing product has been profound. In the track’s recent filing to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for next year’s racing dates it indicated that from 2015 through 2017 purses have more than doubled and handle has gone up 34 percent.
The 2018 live racing meet will once again kick off in April and run through November with a total of 110 racing days. Year-round simulcasting continues without interruption