As millions of Americans make plans to hit the highways or sky-ways this week for the annual Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend, numerous harness racing fans across the land focused their attention on Saturday night’s stakes-filled card at the Meadowlands in northern New Jersey.

Once considered the ‘mecca of harness racing’ when its weeknight and weekend cards were unmatched, the Meadowlands now attains center stage status on only a few occasions during an abbreviated schedule. In addition to Meadowlsnds Pace night and Hambletonian Day, the New Jersey miler also boasts stellar status when it hosts the Final Four stakes for freshmen of both gaits and genders and the accompanying quartet of TVG Open events for trotters and pacers.

In the first of the four TVG Open events, Emoticon Hanover (Daniel Dube) benefited from a pocket trip behind 1-9 favorite Atlanta (Yannick Gingras) then overhauled that one at the wire foe a head victory in 1:51.4. Benefiting from a pocket trip behind Atlanta through through the first three calls, Emoticon Hanover angled out in the lane and wore down the favorite late to score by a head in 1:51.4. It was her fourth win in 20 starts this year and she now owns 26 wins and $1.75 million banked from 73 career outings.

One race later in the $400,000 Governor’s Cup final for two-year-old colt pacers, Papi Rob Hanover (David Miller) easily lived up to his role as the 1-9 favorite when he brushed to command before the half then drew clear in the lane to a three-length score in 1:51.1. A juvenile son of Somebeachsomwhere trained by Brett Pelling for owner David McDuffee, Papi Rob Hanover now owns a 6-4-2 slate and earnings of over $750,000 from 12 starts this year and claim to divisional honors among freshmen pacing colts and geldings.

Then in the $400,000 Three Diamonds final for two-year-old filly pacers, JK First Lady (Gingras) wore down favored 1-2 favorite Lyons Sentinel (Tim Tetrick) and longshot Rocknificent (Scott Zeron) late for a neck score in 1:49.2. A daughter of dam JK She’salady, a harness horse of the year at age two, notched her fifth win in 11 starts this year and handed Lyons Sentinel just her fifth setback and might have joined the discussion for divisional honors.

Later in the $350,000 TVG Open Pace, Always A Prince (Gingras) gained command soon after the start and led through modest fractions en route to a four-length score in 1:48.2. The Tyler George trainee recorded just his fourth win from 18 starts this year after posting 19 wins in 22 tries a year ago. Sophomore star Bettor’s Wish (Dexter Dunn) rallied late to edge Breeders Crown hero American History (Joe Bongiorno) for second, while McWicked (Brian Sears) faded to fourth in a forgettable career finale.

Then one race later in the TVG Open Trot, Six Pack (Ake Svandtstedt) rallied from just off the pace to overhaul7-5 favorite Manchego (Gingras) in the final strides to forge a mild 3-2 upset and join the discussion for champion older trotter during a thin year for the group. Sophomore star Gimpanzee was never a factor in his first try against older foes and will assuredly yield divisional honors to his talented stablemate Greenshoe.

Then in the stakes finale, Caviart Ally (Andrew McCarthy) brushed to command down the backside, yielded to 3-5 favorite Shartin N (Tetrick) before the half, sat a loose pocket behind that one through the far turn, angled out at the head of the lane then wore down the reigning queen of ther division to score by a nose in 1:48.3. The durable Virginia-bred mare now owns a 9-7-3 slate and $660,000 banked from 19 starts and now sports a 25-23-9 slate and $1.8 million banked fromn 72 career outings.

Shartin N settled for second again in a gritty effort while suffering just her fourth setback in 19 starts and is roughly $10,000 shy of reaching $1 million this season for trainer Jim King, Jr. The talented mare owns 41 wins and $2.1 million banked from 56 career outings and may have secured a number of postseason accolades although she was upended by Caviart Ally in the last two major stakes of the season for this group. Her chances for harness horse of the year likely suffered little damage.

Across the Hudson River at Yonkers Raceway, veteran campaigners Somewhere In L A (Jason Bartlett) and Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) finished one-two and just noses apart in a non-winners of $20,000 last five starts class in 1:52.1 over a dampened oval. Bit Of A Legend N will make two or three more starts in his superb career before retiring to stud duty following an outing at Yonkers on December 14. He already boasts 53 wins and over $2.5 million banked from 162 starts, capped by victories in the George Morton Levy final, Battle Of Lake Erie, Gerrity Memorial and Bobby Quillen Memorial.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, one day before the big turkey feast Dover Downs will host the 335,000 Progress Pace final for three-year-old pacing colts. Captain Crunch (Gingras) won the Progress elim in 1:47,3 but drew post three while three Ron Burke trainees drew the three inside slots and Breeders Crown winner Dancin Lou got post six following a fourth-place effort in the elim and rates a redemption chance in the final.