by Garnet Barnsdale
Some of the races contested at the Meadowlands Friday night were causing a buzz in more ways than one, and in one of the night’s dashes history was made.
The night belonged to 74-year-old Terry Morgan, who won the evening’s third race, a non-winners of two trot — and by doing so, he became the first driver in Meadowlands Racetrack history to win a race in both 1976 (the track’s opening year) and 2018.
Morgan – who was making career number 1,552 trip to the winner’s circle from 9,119 drives – made his first win since October 2016 even more memorable by blowing the tote board up with 36-1 shot Master Of The Hill.
Morgan blasted the son of Muscle Hill (out of the Conway Hall mare Alix Hall) off the gate right to the front, only to be overtaken by 5-2 second choice Activist, who was sent hard by Andy Miller from post 10. But Morgan wasn’t content to sit in the pocket for very long, past the :28.2 opening quarter, he made his move with Master Of The Hill and once they made the front, the result was never in doubt.
Leading by open lengths through a :57.4 half and 1:27.1 three-quarters, Morgan and Master of the Hill cruised to a 3 3/4-length 1:56.4 score to make history.
The opening event on the card, an amateur driver’s event, caused a bit of a stir on social media because of the way the easy winner was driven off the last turn and down the lane, which led to his disqualification.
Party On The River – in rein to Roy Marohn, who had previously driven in more than 1,400 races spanning more than 40 years – turned for home with a clear lead seemingly on his way to victory when he cut the last turn way too sharp, veering off the course and inside the pylons for several strides resulting in the disqualification, despite him being the easiest of winners.
The egregious error set off a few regular tweeters with posts like this one from @InsideThePylons : Big M lets their customers bet on drivers that can’t even keep their horses close to the right side of the pylons while on an easy lead and going to win by many.
While it’s certainly great that the amateur drivers are given the opportunity to race at The Mecca of harness racing under the lights, incidents like this will probably always open the debate if these races should offer betting, or not.