Thursday, December 28, 2023

Despite the fact that the strongest driver colony in harness racing has been compromised of late with many of the big-name pilots taking some much-deserved time off, business at The Meadowlands has been booming nonetheless, and this weekend, that upward trajectory figures to continue as the on-track-patron friendly Fan Appreciation Night promotion will close out the year on Saturday (Dec. 30).

“With our race office putting together competitive events and our horsemen supporting the entry box,” said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “Last Saturday (Dec. 23) saw our first back-to-back-to-back $3-million nights at the windows since Hambletonian Day capped a streak of five straight $3-million cards.”

New names can be seen from top-to-bottom in the driver standings over the four-race span of race cards that took place from Dec. 15-23.

In the Universal Driver Rating System, Johnathan Ahle, who won four races Saturday night, leads the way at .301. Next up is the 20-year-old Brett Beckwith at .279, followed by Pat Lachance (.269), Matt Athearn (.231), Bart Dalious (.222) and Braxten Boyd (.218).

Over the same span, Ahle’s 12 wins leads all drivers, with Boyd next with nine, followed by Tyler Miller, who has eight.

Since the track came back from its summer break on Oct. 20, the 23-year-old Boyd’s 21 wins – and 182 starts – are tops in the Big M standings, while Ahle and Miller are tied for third with 17 apiece. Yannick Gingras sits second with 18.

“Racing on the mile track has remained ultra-competitive,” said Settlemoir. “The balanced holiday mix of future stars and veterans offers an exciting dynamic that has been well-received by the betting public. The proof is in the $3-million nights of business we’ve had of late.”

In recent weeks, the 20-cent Pick-8 created an enormous amount of interest and excitement. The wager offers a carryover element that none other can match. The combination of low takeout and degree of difficulty resulted in potential returns on hitting the bet that were hard to believe.

For a bet that begins with a low 15 percent takeout, a return of 85 percent is among the best that’s offered on a multi-leg wager like this. However, as the carryover grew while the Pick-8 continued to go unhit for eight consecutive race cards, the “negative takeout” went to places previously unseen at The Meadowlands, as the return to players went as high as 297 percent (in the event the bet resulted in a winning ticket).

When the Pick-8 was hit last Saturday, the amount of “new money” pushed through the windows totaled $66,611 for a grand total of over $150,000. At the conclusion of the sequence, winners collected a return of 212 percent, which translated to $12,377.42 in their pockets.

MUCH APPRECIATED: On Saturday (Dec. 30), head to the races for Fan Appreciation Night at The Meadowlands.

Track management will say “Thank you” to their faithful fan base with free live racing programs, beginning at 5 p.m.

Then, head over to the Cafe for some tasty concession items at even tastier prices. Hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn and soda (limit five of each item per transaction) will be available for $1 from 6-11 p.m.

The Café will also offer Bud and Bud Light drafts for $2.

THE SKED: After the final two race cards of 2023 take place this Friday and Saturday, racing will then be conducted during January on the same Friday-Saturday basis. Post time at The Big M is 6:20 p.m.

To clarify what may have been previously reported, there will be no Thursday racing during January. Once the New Jersey Racing Commission gives approval, The Meadowlands will release the live racing calendar for all of 2024.

SHUFFLING THE DECK: With Ken Warkentin away on holiday, Dave Little will dust off his binoculars and call the races on Friday (Dec. 29) before Michael Carter heads into the announcer’s booth on Saturday (Dec. 30).

Also on hand throughout the weekend will be John Rallis, who played such a pivotal role for Big M TV on the night of Fall Final Four/FanDuel Championships Night late last month.

CAN YOU SURVIVE THE WINTER? On Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, The Meadowlands’ Winter Meet Survival Challenge, powered by 123Racing, kicks off with cash prizes and Meadowlands swag up for grabs in the free online competition.

TrackMaster will provide Platinum Past Performances for each night of the contest. The game covers the Meadowlands’ Winter Meet and concludes March 30, 2024.

The winner is determined by the highest total bankroll at the end of the Challenge based on a $2 across-the-board wager on selections for three designated races each program.

However, to continue in the game, entrants have to “survive” by finishing in-the-money with at least one of their selections each day. Failing to do so or not making selections knocks the player out of the game.

To aid in the player’s survival, a “lucky horseshoe” is given. The lucky horseshoe is a “free pass” given to all Challenge participants that allows the player to survive if he does not make selections for a race card or all three of his selections fail to hit the board.

The prize board:

The grand prize is $750 plus a Meadowlands swag package
The second-place prize is $500 plus a Meadowlands swag package
The third-place prize is $250 plus a Meadowlands swag package
Most Winners: $200 plus a Meadowlands swag package
Highest monthly bankroll: $100 bankroll (one winner in each month – January, February, March)

For more information, go to

DID YOU SAY 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 Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1), Little (@DaveLittleBigM) and Warkentin (@kenvoiceover).

THE GREAT EIGHT: The Meadowlands provides eight opportunities for the player to make a score trying their luck betting in pools with a low 15 percent takeout. 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 ($50,000 guarantee)
  • Race 7: 20-cent High-5
  • Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6
  • Race 10: 50-cent Pick-4 ($50,000 guarantee)
  • Race 11: 20-cent High-5

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”.

FANDUEL EQUALS FOOTBALL: With massive TV screens, self-service betting terminals and plenty of top-tier food and drink, it’s no wonder that the FanDuel Sportsbook, located in the grandstand at The Meadowlands, remains the No. 1 sportsbook in all of North America.

The book will be the place to be for football bettors in the coming week, with the College Football Playoff semifinals, and, of course, Week 17 of the NFL, on the menu.

The action begins with the NFL on Thursday (Dec. 28) when the New York Jets travel to Cleveland for an 8:15 p.m. game with the Browns, who are a 7½-point favorite that are -350 on the money line in the game that has an under/over of 34½ points.

On Saturday (Dec. 30), the Dallas Cowboys (-4½, -230, 53½) take on the Detroit Lions in an 8:15 p.m. kickoff in the Lone Star State.

On Sunday (Dec. 31) at 1 p.m., the Los Angeles Rams (-5½, -230, 44½) travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants.

For college football fans, the College Football Playoff takes place on Monday (Jan. 1) with a pair of games. The winners will advance to the Jan. 8 National Championship Game.

In the 5 p.m. tilt, Michigan is a 1½-point favorite – and -130 on the money line – to derail Alabama’s drive for a 19th national title. The under/over is 44½.

At 8:45 p.m., Texas (-4½, -184, 62½) takes on Washington for the other spot in the final.

Whatever the sport, for the latest odds, go here

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.