Thursday, October 19, 2023

Live harness racing at The Meadowlands has been on hiatus for the last five weeks, but the No. 1 track in the sport is back on Friday (Oct. 20) and will race every Friday and Saturday through the end of 2023 with a first-race post time of 6:20 p.m.

Actually, there will be two changes in the schedule. There will be no live racing on Friday, Nov. 24, while there will be live action on Thursday, Dec. 7.

The Kindergarten Series for 2-year-olds of each sex and gait is the marquee event during opening weekend with seven leg-four $20,000 dashes to be contested on the Friday program.

The Friday card will also see a brand-new multi-leg puzzle with a low 15 percent takeout as the 20-cent Pick-8 makes its debut, giving the Big M faithful yet another opportunity to make a big score while keeping investments economical given the wager’s low base bet. In addition, there will be minor tweaks to the High-5 (or Pentafecta, if you prefer).

“The Meadowlands welcomes horseplayers from around the world to Opening Night,” said track Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “The Big M will offer some new betting opportunities this fall as we try to make the wagering menu as exciting as possible for our players. There are now eight wagers with a 15 percent takeout every night. Low takeouts and low minimums help our horseplayers stay in action. The Meadowlands offers the biggest pools in Standardbred racing, which will provide players with many opportunities every night to make a score.”

The lineup of The Big M’s “Great Eight” is as follows (all wagers – with the exception of the Pick-7 – are carryover eligible):

  • Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5
  • Race 2: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7
  • Race 4: 20-cent Pick-8
  • Race 6: 50-cent Pick-4
  • Race 7: 20-cent High-5 (the minimum used to be 10-cents)
  • Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6
  • Race 10: 50-cent Pick-4
  • Race 11: 20-cent High-5 (Race 11 instead of the final race of the night)

Indeed, the betting pools at The Meadowlands are by far the biggest in the sport. Thus far in 2023, a total of $214,514,733 has been bet on Big M races, good for a nightly average of $3,201,712. The $3-million barrier gets busted on a regular basis at the mile oval, as, after 67 race cards this year, at least $3 million has been put in play on 50 occasions.

All wagering figures represent “Jeff Gural-Era” bests. Gural, the track’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, began operating the mile oval in December of 2011.

“The Meadowlands has a plethora of events lined up for the fall meeting,” said Settlemoir, Gural’s right-hand man for horse racing since 2006. Settlemoir oversaw the building of Tioga Downs, brought Vernon Downs back from bankruptcy, and since taking over at The Big M in 2012, guided the transition from the old grandstand to the new facility. “Horses, sports and exciting events will make The Big M one of the most exciting destinations in the Metropolitan area. Action at The Meadowlands is truly the attraction.

“2023 has been one of our greatest seasons. The Championship Meet lived up to all the hype. One of our biggest Meadowlands Pace Nights combined with one of the biggest Hambletonian days of all time, when total handle was just under $9 million.”

Leg five of the Kindergarten takes place Friday, Oct. 27. Then, in November, the stakes volume dial gets turned up to 11.

The ball starts rolling on Saturday, Nov. 4 when an estimated $1 million will be up for grabs in the Kindergarten finals and consolations. Next up, on Saturday, Nov. 11, a total of $240,000 (est.) will be offered on the NJ Home Grown and NJ Garden State.

After eliminations (if necessary) are contested on Saturday, Nov. 18, the “Fall Final Four” and FanDuel Championships will make up a can’t-miss, date-circling-worthy night of competition on Saturday, Nov. 25 when an estimated $2.65 million comprise what is the third-biggest night of the Big M calendar year after Hambletonian Day and Meadowlands Pace Night.

The Fall Final Four is made up of the Governor’s Cup (2-year-old colt and gelding pace), Three Diamonds (2FP), Valley Victory (2CGT) and Goldsmith Maid (2FT). The FanDuel four pack comprises the Open Pace, Open Trot, Open Mare Pace and Open Mare Trot. All eight events figure to have great impact when ballots are cast at year’s end for both divisional honors and Horse of the Year.

SIMULCAST HEAVEN: In addition to great live action, the simulcast areas at The Meadowlands are the places to be when major events – both Thoroughbred or Standardbred – take to the track.

The Breeders Crown takes place at Indiana’s Hoosier Park both this week and next. Eliminations will be contested Thursday (Oct. 19), Friday (Oct. 20) and Saturday (Oct. 21). Post time is 6 p.m.

The Crown, which has purses totaling $7 million, will then have four finals for 2-year-olds on Friday, Oct. 27 and a total of eight championship events – four for 3-years-olds and four for older horses – on Saturday, Oct. 28. Those two race cards have a first-race post-time of 6:15 p.m.

All of the Breeders Crown events can be wagered on and watched at The Big M. If you can’t get out of the house when the finals take place, Fox Sports 2 (FS2) will present a live broadcast from 9-11 p.m. on both the 27th and 28th. Meadowlands TV’s Jessica Otten and the Red Mile’s Gabe Prewitt will provide the commentary.

One week after the Crown, fans of the “runners” can come on out and catch the 40th edition of the Breeders’ Cup.

California’s picturesque Santa Anita Park will be the site for the Cup, which will have five events on Friday, Nov. 3, and nine more on Saturday, Nov. 4.

The Friday lineup features 2-year-olds in the Juvenile Turf Sprint (post time, 5 p.m. EDT), Juvenile Fillies (5:40 p.m.), Juvenile Fillies Turf (6:20 p.m.), Juvenile (7 p.m.) and Juvenile Turf (7:40 p.m.).

The Saturday events are the Dirt Mile (2:30 p.m.), Filly and Mare Turf (3:10 p.m.), Filly and Mare Sprint (3:50 p.m.), Mile (4:30 p.m.), Distaff (5:10 p.m.), Turf (5:50 p.m.), Classic (6:40 p.m.), Turf Sprint (7:25 p.m.) and Sprint (8 p.m.)

If you’d like to catch all of the action of the Breeders’ Cup in the simulcast areas, great, but if you’d like to have an exceptional dining experience as you watch and wager, check out the special Southern-themed buffet that will be offered.

For complete information, go to (

Call 201-THE-BIGM for reservations. Dining begins at 4:30 p.m. with salads and appetizers before main dishes and sides are offered at 5:30 p.m.

IT’S FREE: Free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to

“X” MARKS THE SPOT: Everything Meadowlands is available by going on X (formerly known as Twitter). You can check in with the Big M team for early changes, racing information and staff selections by going to @themeadowlands or #playbigm.

Stay in touch with The Big M team of Otten (@JessicaOtten1), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover) and Shades Demsky (@ShadesOnRacing).

WITHERITE’S RACE REVIEWS: Race reviews and selections by The Meadowlands’ morning-line odds maker and program analyst James Witherite are available 48 hours before a given race card. To access, simply go to, go to the “handicapping” tab, then click “race reviews”.

GOURMET DINNER AND WINE: On Saturday (Oct. 21), head to the Big M’s second-floor lounge for a spectacular five-course meal where each dish will be paired with a chef-selected wine.

The cost is $74.95 per person (plus tax and gratuity). Call 201-THE-BIGM for reservations.

Diners must be 21 or older to attend.

THE BIG FIGHT: On Saturday (Oct. 21), come and see champion Islam Makhachev take on Alexander Volkanovski for the 155-pound title at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi.

Catch the fight in The Big M’s newly redesigned Gallery. Doors open at noon with the fight slated for 2 p.m.

WHATTA DAILY DOUBLE: Do you like the music of Billy Joel and Elton John?

Then come out to the track for the “River of Dreams”, The Billy Joel/American Elton seven-piece Tribute Show on Saturday, Oct. 28.

It will prove to be a true tribute in sound and appearance. It will be hard to tell them apart from the real thing!

The show begins at 10 p.m. Tickets are priced at just $35. For further information and to purchase tickets, go to River of Dreams Tribute Show Tickets in East Rutherford, NJ, United States (

FOOTBALL FRENZY: On Sunday, Oct. 29, head to The Meadowlands for ESPN New York’s “The Battle for New York” New York Game Day live remote from 7-11 a.m.

Amani Toomer, Anita Marks and Mike Tannenbaum will be onsite hosting in the second-floor Lounge.

TIME FOR CHILI: It’s time once again for one of the most popular promotions The Meadowlands offers, as on Saturday, Nov. 4, all chili and salsa chefs who think they have the right stuff can enter the track’s “Chili and Salsa Cook-off”.

So, you’re not a chef? No problem. Free samples will be given for the People’s Choice vote following the 8 p.m. turn-in. The event takes place in the Food Court and outdoor East Apron.

For complete information, and to enter, go to Meadowlands Fall Chili Cook Off – Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment :: Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment (

HEAD TO FANDUEL: Located inside The Meadowlands, the FanDuel Sportsbook is the top facility of its type in all of North America.

Whatever your pleasure, the NBA preseason, NHL regular season, MLB playoffs, or, of course, the NFL, you can get all of your action inside the book, which has numerous big-screen TVs and food and drink options, so you can enjoy not only betting the games, but watching them as well.

How about some local football?

On Sunday (Oct. 22), the New York Giants take on the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium in a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Giants are a 2½ -point underdog who are +122 on the money line. The under/over is 39½.

The New York Jets have the week off.

Whatever the sport, for the latest odds, go to FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey – Sports Betting at Meadowlands Racetrack (NJ)

The FanDuel Sportsbook is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-1 a.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-1 a.m.; and Sunday 8 a.m.-midnight. For cash-at-counter customers, the hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.-11 p.m. The Lounge opens at noon on Sundays.