Thursday, January 6, 2022

The year 2021 may have been challenging for society, but business at The Meadowlands was extraordinary while providing horseplayers a diversion from the pandemic.

This Friday (Jan. 7), The Big M will kick off what it hopes to be another big year with the first of two 15-race programs that get underway at 6:20 p.m. Racing will be conducted on a Friday-Saturday basis for the next 31 weeks. In addition, there will be racing on three Thursdays during that span (June 30, July 7 and Aug. 4).

“Winter is normally a good time for us with some of the closer tracks dark for the next few months,” said track Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “Our entry box got great support from horsemen wanting to get their horses raced, so much so that we are able to present 30 races this first weekend of 2022.”

The action should be sizable to start the year, if the final program of 2021 is any indication. Last Friday (Dec. 31), wagering on the 14-race card totaled $2.97 million, which nudged action for the year just past the $276-million mark for the 92 racing programs, meaning that the mile oval’s average handle per card was a remarkable $3 million.

“We all know how tough 2021 was on all of us,” said Settlemoir. “But we were grateful to be able to conduct our races and be as successful as we were while keeping our horsemen, staff, and customers safe. Moving forward, with Covid numbers on the rise, we will be taking some precautions to keep our co-workers and guests safe and healthy for the New Year.”

Until further notice, face masks must be worn by staff and guests, regardless of vaccination status, in the grandstand as well as the FanDuel Sportsbook.

DEXTER’S DOMAIN: After being the leading driver at both the Winter-Spring-Championship and Fall Meetings, Dexter Dunn finished 2021 atop the Big M standings with 166 victories. Yannick Gingras was second with 117.

Ron Burke finished second to Jeff Cullipher during the W-S-C Meeting but won 30 times in the Fall to pass Cullipher for the year, 79 wins to 71.

Dunn, the now three-time defending United States Harness Writers Association Driver of the Year, finished 2021 with 424 victories (10th in the national standings), good for earnings of $12,916,775. Tim Tetrick, who won 10 races on New Year’s Eve at Harrah’s Philadelphia, edged out Dunn for leading money-winning driver with $12,917,113, just $338 more than Dunn.

Burke, as usual, was by far the leading trainer nationally with 985 wins and a bankroll of $21,714,137, taking those two titles for a 13th consecutive year.

A NEW LOOK: The Meadowlands website has had a makeover, and those seeking the 411 on everything Big M can now do so at a site with a clean, modern design that is mobile responsive.

As it has always been, the address is and is worth checking out.

DID YOU SEE THAT POOL? A carryover of $38,923.56 led to $231,849.96 in “new money” being poured into the pot for a grand total of $270,773 in the 20-cent Pick-5 that took place on the final night of racing in 2021 (Dec. 31).

There was big-time excitement after driver Johnathan Ahle guided 57-1 shot Galactic Galleon N to victory lane in the second race GSY Final, and by the time the will pays were posted before the start of the fifth race, there were three possibilities of single-ticket winners walking away with better than $230,000.

The big payoff wasn’t to be, but those who cashed did not complain, as those with winning tickets walked away with $27,565.46. There were no winning favorites, but other than Ahle’s knockout punch, no winners paid less than $10.60 or more than $13.60.

Twenty-cent Pick-6 players also got in on the fun, as a modest carryover of a little more than $6,000 led to a total pool of better than $39,000. With a 50-1 bomb raising the payout, there was only one winning ticket, which was good for $34,157.

The 20-cent Survivor Pick-7 came back a healthy $7,015, despite the single winner needing only five correct selections on his or her ticket.

“We know that full fields, big pools and low takeouts certainly bring more people to play The Meadowlands,” said Settlemoir. “Add a marvelous New Year’s Eve party that culminated with a big fireworks display as midnight drew near and it ended up being the perfect nightcap to a great 2021 season.”

SPEAKING OF LOW TAKEOUTS: The Meadowlands is the industry’s handle leader, and much of the reason why is that many of the bets the mile oval offers feature a low takeout of 15 percent.

Here is a rundown of those wagers for the upcoming weekend:

  • Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5
  • Race 3: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7
  • Race 6: 50-cent Early Pick-4 ($50,000 guaranteed pool)
  • Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6
  • Race 10: 50-cent Late Pick-4 ($50,000 guaranteed pool)
  • Race 15: 10-cent Pentafecta/Hi-5

WHO DOES BROWER LIKE? For expert selections and analysis of every Big M card, check out track oddsmaker Dave Brower’s race reviews.

For Brower’s input, which is generally available 48 hours before every card, go to, then click on the “handicapping” tab and go to “race reviews”.

GET SOCIAL: Everything Meadowlands is available by going on Twitter. You can check in with the Big M team for early changes, racing information and staff selections by going to @themeadowlands or #playbigm.

On race nights, stay in touch with Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1), Dave Brower (@eedoogie), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover), Shades (@ShadesOnRacing) and Edison Hatter (@Edison_1999_).