Thursday, February 2, 2023

There are many factors that go into the current resurgence that is taking place at The Meadowlands.

A race office that provides what horsemen want, which leads to what bettors want, and a governor and state legislature that provided a jolt of much-needed revenue that helped not only the top harness racetrack in the world remain No. 1, but also fueled an entire industry in the Garden State.

As a result, business at The Meadowlands has been nothing short of sensational thus far during 2023.

“Our race office has done a tremendous job of carding full fields,” said track Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “They are the key to our betting success. Full 10-horse fields are what our fan base craves. This weekend (Feb. 3-4) is another example of the good work our race office does. Twenty-four of our 28 races this weekend – if there are no scratches – will have 10 horses. Three have nine. The one race that has less than nine has eight, and that’s our Saturday feature, which has some seriously talented horses in it. We are looking forward to what should be another big weekend of action.”

The competitive racing at The Meadowlands leads to less predictability. Less predictability means fewer winning favorites, which is what Big M fans count on.

During January, Meadowlands’ favorites clicked 35 percent of the time, the lowest winning rate in the game. The median percentage of winning favorites for the industry was 44.

For some perspective, Gulfstream Park, the most popular venue in Thoroughbred racing during January, also saw favorites win just 35 percent of the time.

During the month of January, things were jumping at The Big M’s betting windows as all eight evening cards (the normal schedule is Friday-Saturday evenings, but during January, there were also two Sunday afternoon cards) saw betting break the $3-million barrier.

A remarkable improvement over the first month of 2022, which had six programs and zero $3-million nights.

Average nightly handle on Fridays during January of this year was $3.15 million. A year ago, that figure was $2.58 million.

Saturdays have seen more of the same. This year, an average of $3.39 million has been pushed through the windows as compared to last year’s $2.57 million.

It’s taken a total of eight Friday-Saturday programs for the Big M to register eight $3-million nights this year. During 2022, it wasn’t until May 6 that wagering went past the $3-million mark for the eighth time, the 32nd program of the year.

“Things are going well,” said Settlemoir. “And we very much appreciate our loyal fans, but none of this would have been possible without the help of Gov. (Phil) Murphy and the members of the New Jersey Legislature, who saw fit to help us at The Meadowlands – not to mention the entire horse racing industry in New Jersey – with a yearly appropriation that has helped maintain our purses at a high level. That’s played a big part in keeping our horsemen excited about supporting our entry box, something that you’ve got to have to be successful in this business.”

Ever since the first appropriation was put into the racing game in 2019, things have been on an upward trend, especially in the breeding business, where the New Jersey Sire Stakes series is now competitive on a national scale on the trotting side while the pacers continue their climb toward the top.

The NJSS will now contest the four finals for 2-year-olds during Hambletonian Weekend (Aug. 4-5) for purses totaling an estimated $960,000, with the rich New Jersey Classic – the brainchild of Big M President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Gural – to follow soon thereafter, which will feature eight finals that will go for an estimated $1.7 million.

It’s easy to chart handle success, but the effect of the appropriation reaches further when one considers where the sport was in New Jersey when it was first introduced as compared to now.

“The tremendous betting numbers that The Meadowlands has put up this January is certainly reason for optimism throughout harness racing,” said Hambletonian Society President and Chief Executive Officer John Campbell. “The handle at The Hambletonian, Meadowlands Pace and Breeders Crown was up significantly in 2022. The handle at The Meadowlands and Woodbine Mohawk (Park) was very strong, and that trend is continuing into the New Year.

“Batavia Downs had an all-time record handle this week. I attended the Prix d’Amerique this past weekend in Paris. They had a huge crowd and a Euro Handle of over $30 million. All of this is reason for optimism as we move through 2023 and it shows that the betting public will respond to competitive harness racing.”

SAVE THE MONEY FOR WAGERING: As always, free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to

A BIG HIT FOR LITTLE: Last Saturday (Jan. 28), followers of the Big M’s Dave Little got a jolt of cash in their wallets after the longtime TV talent and handicapper hit big in his spot called “Little’s Late Double”.

Little hit his ticket after Bizys Beatle ($15.60) took the 13th race before Acton Hanover ($7.40) won the 14th to cap the double, which paid $51.80. The ticket recommended Little’s followers play the combination for $15, which would have resulted in cashing in for $388.50, a profit of $358.50 after you remove the amount of the wager.

LOW TAKEOUTS, $100K GUARANTEED: The Meadowlands offers plenty of value to the bettor with six wagers that offer low 15 per cent takeouts, plus two that offer a guaranteed pool of $50,000 nightly.

They are:

  • Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5
  • Race 3: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7
  • Race 6: 50-cent Pick-4 ($50,000 guaranteed pool)
  • Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6
  • Race 10: 50-cent Pick-4 ($50,000 guaranteed pool)
  • Race 14: 10-cent Hi-5

GET TWEETING: 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), Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover) and Edison Hatter (@Edison_1999_).

THE LONG ROAD AHEAD: Live racing at The Meadowlands will take place every Friday and Saturday for the next 27 consecutive weeks. Post time is 6:20 p.m., except for the last day of the meeting, Hambletonian Day, Saturday, Aug. 5, when the first race heads to the gate at noon.

CHECK OUT THE SHOW: The live “Racing from The Meadowlands” simulcast show takes place every racing night. Join Little and Otten as they will provide news, notes, selections and commentary on the night’s featured races every racing night beginning at 5:45 p.m.

BRING YOUR SWEETHEART: Bring your significant other for a night out at the races during Valentine’s Day Weekend, Feb. 10-11.

There will be a special lavish dinner offered in Pink Restaurant, perfect for a couple’s night out, for just $49.95 per person. Diners will enjoy a complimentary glass of sparkling champagne, and in addition, there will be a red rose for the ladies.

For reservations, call 201-THE-BIGM.

For complete information, go to

WIN A NEW TV FOR THE GAME: On Saturday, Feb. 11, come out to The Meadowlands and win one of five high-definition TVs just in time to watch professional football’s championship game.

What will be up for grabs are two 55-inch TVS, two 60-inch TVs and one 70-inch TV.

The winners will be drawn after races 2, 4, 6 and 9.

Fans must complete an online registration form to be eligible to win. To enter, go to

SEE THE BIG GAME IN “THE BOOK”: The National Football League’s championship game takes place Sunday, Feb. 12, and the best place to watch and wager on the event is the FanDuel Sportsbook, which is located inside the grandstand at The Meadowlands.

The game will kick off at 6:30 p.m. and the Philadelphia Eagles are a 1½-point favorite over the Kansas City Chiefs. The game has an under/over of 50½, and for those who prefer the money line, the Eagles are -118 while the Chiefs are +100.

There are several attractive options for patrons who’d like to spend the day at The Big M betting and watching the game, beginning with Option 1, which, for $60, is a view party from The Gallery with former New York Giants standout Amani Toomer and PIX-11 sportscaster Marc Malusis.

The $60 – which includes tax and tip – includes a game-day buffet of wings, hot dogs, burgers, fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers.

Toomer and Malusis will conduct a Q&A 30 minutes before the start of the game. There will also be Giants swag giveaways.

Option 2, which costs $50, gets you a good seat for the game, and your pricing acts as credit towards food purchases.

For complete information, go to