Live harness racing begins at raceway

First leg of Triple Crown, the Cane Pace, will be held at track Labor Day, Sept. 7

The familiar call of “Here they come, there they go” will return to Freehold Raceway today, Aug. 12. The venerable harness track on Route 9, Freehold, will reopen for live harness racing with post time set for 12:30 p.m.

Live racing will be held Wednesday through Saturday. Simulcasting of races takes place every day.

The $300,000 Cane Pace will highlight the track’s stakes schedule on Labor Day, Sept. 7 (a special Monday event).

The Cane Pace is the first leg of the Pacing Triple Crown (the Little Brown Jug in Delaware, Ohio, and the Messenger Stakes at Yonkers Raceway, New York,) are the other two legs) and is one of the most prestigious races in the sport.

Many of harness racing’s greatest horses, including Bret Hanover (1966), Albatross (1971), Niatross (1980) and Cam Fella (1982), have won the Cane Pace.

Hall of Fame drivers like the late Stanley Dancer and William Haughton, along with active Hall of Fame drivers such as John Campbell, Cat Manzi and Ron Pierce have all won the Cane Pace during their legendary careers.

On Aug. 29 two $99,000 elimination heats will be held to determine the eighthorse field for the Sept. 7 Cane Pace final.

Among the 3-year-old pacers who are eligible to compete in the 2009 Cane Pace is Well Said, who won the $1 million Meadowlands Pace and North American Pace this year. Driven by Pierce, the son of Western Hanover won the Meadowlands Pace in July in a swift 1:47.3. Well Said has earned more than $1.3 million this year.

Also eligible for the Cane Pace are Vintage Master ($816,326) and Mr. Wiggles ($688,537), who are second and third in purse earnings this year and have lifetime marks of 1:49.2 and 1:49.1, respectively.

If I Can Dream, who has a 1:49.4 mile to his credit and purse earnings of $445,988, is also eligible.

The Cane Pace dates back to 1955 when the late William Haughton won behind Quick Chief. Since 1998, the Cane Pace has been held at Freehold Raceway. Last year, Art Official with Pierce in the bike won in a stakes and track record 1:50.2.

The Cane Pace is named for William H. Cane, a Grand Circuit driver in the 1890s who helped introduce the sport of harness racing to the New York area when he founded Good Time Park in Goshen, N.Y. Cane held its first meeting there in 1927 and in the 1930s crowds of 25,000 harness racing to the New York area when he founded Good Time Park in Goshen, N.Y. Cane held its first meeting there in 1927 and in the 1930s crowds of 25,000 people and more were attending races at Good Time Park.

Cane brought the Hambletonian trot, the sport’s biggest race, to Good Time Park in 1930.

In 1950 Cane purchased Yonkers Raceway just outside New York City and converted it from a thoroughbred race track to harness racing. One year after Cane died in 1954, the Cane Pace was inaugurated at Yonkers Raceway.

The winner of this year’s Cane Pace will be the only 3-year-old with a shot at winning the Pacing Triple Crown. The other dates for the Triple Crown races are Sept. 24 for the Little Brown Jug and Nov. 7 for the Messenger Stakes.

Since its inception in 1956, 10 horses have won the Pacing Triple Crown. The first was Adios Butler in 1959 and the most recent was No Pan Intended in 2003.

Other top stakes races at Freehold Raceway will include the $145,000 Shady Daisy (3-year-old filly pace) on Sept. 7; the $100,000 Charles Smith Final (3-year old trotters) on Sept. 11; the $120,000 Lou Babic Final (2-yearold colt pacers) and the $75,000 Babic Final (2-year-old fillies) on Sept. 12; and the $70,000 Harold Dancer Filly Division Final (2-year-old trotters) and the $80,000 Harold Dancer Final (2-yearold trotters) on Sept. 17.

There will be $100,000 Sire Stakes finals held throughout the meet. The first will be on Aug. 26 for 2-year-old filly trotters and 2-year-old colt trotters. Other dates are Aug. 28 for 3-year-old colt trotters, Aug., 29 for 3-year-old filly pacers, Sept. 10 for 3-year-old filly trotters, Sept. 19 for 3-year-old colt pacers and Oct. 3 for 2-year-old filly pacers and 2-year-old colt pacers.

One item of interest to Freehold Raceway fans will be the winning streak of Shortest Distance. When Freehold Raceway closed its previous meeting in May, Shortest Distance, a 4-year-old pacer, had won 12 consecutive races. He topped the previous record of 11 straight wins set by Stewart Hanover 30 years ago.S

hortest Distance is trained by Freehold’s John Schmigel and driven by Jackson’s Jim Marshall III.

Harness racing fans will be interested to see how many more wins Shortest Distance can tack on to his record.

The defending driving champion will be Freehold’s Jack Baggitt Jr.

Baggitt, 47, who has been involved in harness racing for 29 years, won his first Freehold Raceway driving title by scoring 181 wins during the winter-spring meet. Baggitt has won more than 2,100 races in his career.

Ken Rucker was the top trainer at the last meet, ringing up 80 victories.