BUSINESS BOOMING DURING BIG M STAKES SEASON
Thursday, July 6, 2023
After starting the year with 34 consecutive Friday and Saturday night programs that saw wagering exceed $3 million, things have slowed a bit recently at the windows at The Meadowlands, by far the handle leader in the sport of harness racing.
With other tracks in the region opening up in the warmer weather, it’s been more difficult to card 14 races with full fields, but last weekend, things picked up sharply as the track’s Championship Meet put the spotlight on four stakes events on Saturday (July 1), motivating the Big M faithful to wager $3,806,648 after betting $3,192,296 on Friday (June 30). The weekend total of $6,998,944 fell about $1,000 short of giving the track a fourth $7-million weekend during 2023.
“Our business has been surging,” said Meadowlands’ Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “For 52 programs this year, we’ve bet $161,396,568, so we are averaging $3.1 million per card. We just missed the $7-million mark for two nights of racing last week, averaging $3,499,472 a night. This is the first time the average handle has been over $3 million per card for the first half of the season in decades. When you consider how successful our Fox Sports national television broadcasts have been, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the remainder of our Championship Meet.”
Speaking of national television coverage, The Big M’s races will be front and center both this Saturday (July 8) and next (July 15) on Fox Sports 2 (FS2) and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), respectively. The July 8th program will feature a pair of Graduate finals and both eliminations for the Meadowlands Pace while the July 15th card features the $668,000 Pace final plus a big handful of other major events.
The remaining schedule for when Meadowlands’ races will be shown on either FS1 or FS2 is as follows (with highlighted races):
- Saturday, July 8 (FS2, 8-11 p.m.; Meadowlands Pace eliminations, Graduate finals)
- Saturday, July 15 (FS1, 10 p.m.-midnight; Meadowlands Pace, William Haughton Memorial, Hambletonian Maturity plus other stakes for total purses of $2.5 million)
- Saturday, Aug. 5 (TBA, 1-5 p.m.; TBA, 6-7 p.m.; Hambletonian, Hambletonian Oaks plus other stakes for total purses of $3.5 million)
- Friday, Sept. 8 (FS1, 9-11 p.m.; New Jersey Classic Series finals)
The optimism for Meadowlands’ management is high, given the fact that the two biggest programs of the year will be taking place over the last five weeks of the meet before live action goes on a three-week hiatus.
MEADOWLANDS PACE ELIMINATIONS: Here are the fields for Saturday (July 8) night’s two eliminations for the Meadowlands Pace, an open event for 3-year-olds, with post position, horse, driver, trainer and morning-line odds (this version includes driver changes):
FIRST ELIMINATION (RACE 6 – PURSE $50,000)
- Voukefalas (Jordan Stratton, Michael Russo), 2-1
- Cannibal (Scott Zeron, Nancy Takter), 3-1
- Fulton (Dexter Dunn, Linda Toscano), 5-2
- Hungry Angel Boy (Yannick Gingras, Tony Alagna), 8-1
- Combustion (Todd McCarthy, Brett Pelling), 6-1
- Bamboozler (Dave Miller, Virgil Morgan Jr.), 12-1
- Its A Me Mario (Lauren Tritton, Shane Tritton), 15-1
SECOND ELIMINATION (RACE 10 – PURSE $50,000)
- Confederate (Tim Tetrick, Brett Pelling), 5-2
- Ammo (Dave Miller, Joe Holloway), 8-1
- Stockade Seelster (Jody Jamieson, Dr. Ian Moore), 3-1
- Gung Ho (Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke), 10-1
- El Rey (Scott Zeron, Tony Alagna), 10-1
- Christchurch (Dexter Dunn, Nancy Takter), 7-2
- Save America (Andy McCarthy, Nancy Takter), 6-1
- Lyons Surfing (Joe Bongiorno, Jim King Jr.), 12-1
NOTE: The top five in the official order of finish from the two elims qualify for the final, which takes place on Saturday, July 15.
Meadowlands Pace Night will offer a laundry list of big stakes events. In addition to The Pace, there will also be (all purses are estimated) the $175,000 Mistletoe Shalee, $250,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial, $225,000 Del Miller Memorial, $450,000 William Haughton Memorial, $175,000 Dorothy Haughton Memorial and $400,000 Hambletonian Maturity.
For a complete list of stakes events at The Big M, go to M1-2023-Chronological-Stakes-Purse-List-NS.pdf (playmeadowlands.com)
Precisely three weeks after Pace Night, harness racing’s biggest day will take place on Saturday, Aug. 5, when a blockbuster card features a long list of stakes events, highlighted by the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks. There is a special early post time on Hambo Day of noon.
“So much of what has gone right at The Meadowlands this year,” said Settlemoir. “Can be attributed to Gov. (Phil) Murphy and the New Jersey State Legislature for their continued support of the horse racing industry in the Garden State. Sometimes it’s hard to quantify how much legislation has helped, but that’s not the case here. Handle on The Meadowlands has exploded since the Governor signed the appropriation bill in February of 2019, bringing enormous attention to New Jersey, and vaulting The Big M to become the most popular nighttime signal in North America, regardless of breed.
“Horseplayers have supported us in a big way, and it’s a two-way street. The Meadowlands continues to lower takeouts as a thank you to horseplayers around the world for their loyal support, and to drive business, takeouts have been reduced by as much as 40 percent. There is only one wager offered at the track that has a takeout of over 20 percent. These fan friendly moves return more money to the horseplayers, and their incredible response to this low takeout initiative is easily measured by the $3.1-million average handle this year.”
THE SENSATIONAL SEVEN: These are the seven wagers The Big M offers nightly to the bettor that offer both a low minimum wager as well as a low 15 percent takeout. In addition, the two Pick-4s offer a guaranteed pool of $50,000.
- Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5
- Race 3: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7
- Race 6: Early 50-cent Pick-4 ($50,000 guaranteed pool)
- Race 7: Early 10-cent Hi-5
- Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6
- Race 10: Late 50-cent Pick-4 ($50,000 guaranteed pool)
- Race 14: Late 10-cent Hi-5
DON’T PAY: Free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to playmeadowlands.com.
Meadowlands Pace Night dining:
- Center of the action with front-row seats to Victory’s giant screens; two-and four-top tables and bar seats available at $50 per person
- Ticket purchase acts as food and beverage credit for Victory Sports Bar menu
- 2023 Pace Night Dining Tickets – ticketleap.com
- Table for four near the Winner’s Circle
- $100 per table – price is a credit towards cafe food and drink purchases
- Purchase your table – ticketleap.com
- Tiered dining room with great views of the live racetrack action
- Buffet features salads, sides, main courses, carving station and delicious desserts
- $49.95 per person plus tax and gratuity
- Call 201-THE-BIGM to make reservations
PREWITT, WARKENTIN ARE MASTERFUL: Gabe Prewitt and Ken Warkentin were the winners last weekend (June 30-July 1) in the track’s “Battle of The Meadowlands Masterminds” handicapping contest.
Prewitt, aka as the leader of the “#Senditin Army”, made a huge hit on Friday’s card, crushing a $43.40 exacta with a $200 bet to win the night with an enormous bankroll of $4,340.
On Saturday, Warkentin, who was inducted into the Communicators Hall of Fame at the yearly Hall of Fame Awards dinner Sunday (July 2) night in Goshen, NY, won Saturday night with $620 after hitting a $200 exacta that paid $6.20.
The “Masterminds” competition will take place for the next nine live race nights, and on-track patrons who select the winning handicapper on a given card will have a chance to win a grand prize of $10,000. The drawing takes place on Hambletonian Day, Saturday, Aug. 5.
The competitors are competing for a top prize of $1,000 that will be donated on their behalf to charity. Prewitt is playing for CBH Care, the charity that the late Dave Brower played for last year when he won the competition. Jessica Otten is playing for New Vocations, Dave Little for the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, Warkentin the Harness Horse Youth Foundation) and Edison Hatter the Purple Haze Standardbred Adoption Program.
HORSEPLAY GIVEAWAY: Would you like to win a car?
Then come to The Meadowlands every live racing night for the “Horseplay Car Giveaway”, where the grand prize is a 2023 Toyota Camry.
Patrons will toss small rubber horses into a moving car along the fence at the track after the replay of race six, and those whose horses make it into the vehicle have a chance to drive it home. The winner will be announced on Friday, Aug. 4.
For every horse that makes it into the Horseplay car, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment will donate $5 to a designated monthly charity.
The May recipient was Helping Horseshoe, June’s was Spectrum 360 while the July/August donation will go to HOPES. An additional $5 for every horse that makes it into the car will also be donated to the Purple Haze Standardbred Adoption Program by The Meadowlands.
For complete information and giveaway rules, go to https://playmeadowlands.com/event/2023-horseplay-toyota-giveaway/2023-05-05/
BRING YOUR DANCING SHOES: On Friday nights, check out the rooftop terrace at The Meadowlands and enjoy “Latin Fridays”.
There will be food and drink specials, dancing and a live DJ. That’s every Friday night from 6-11 p.m.
BREAKFAST AT THE TRACK: This Friday (July 7) morning, head out to the Big M and check out the stars of the future, as 2-year-olds of each sex and gait take to the track during “Breakfast with the Babies.”
The races begin at 9 a.m., and if you can’t make it to the mile oval, check out the action live on rtn.tv (Racetrack Television Network).
THE RACES KEEP ON COMING: Live racing at The Meadowlands will take place every Friday and Saturday for the next five 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.
The live “Racing from The Meadowlands” pregame show begins every night at 5:45 p.m.
TWEET US: 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 The Big M team of Otten (@JessicaOtten1), Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Warkentin (@kenvoiceover), Hatter (@Edison_1999_) and Prewitt (@gabe_prewitt).
HATTER’S RACE REVIEWS: Race reviews and selections by The Meadowlands’ morning-line odds maker, program analyst and TV talent Hatter are available 48 hours before a given race card. To access this valuable information from one of the brightest young minds in the sport, simply go to playmeadowlands.com, go to the “handicapping” tab, then click “race reviews”.
COME TO FABULOUS FANDUEL: If you like betting professional sports and would like to get your money down in the No. 1 facility of its type in North America, then head inside the grandstand at The Meadowlands and get your action in the FanDuel Sportsbook.
On Thursday (July 6), both local baseball teams will be in action.
The Baltimore Orioles travel to the Bronx to take on the New York Yankees in a 7:05 p.m. start. Baltimore is a -130 favorite in the game that has an under/over of 8½ runs.
The red-hot New York Mets are in Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks in a game that has a first pitch of 9:40 p.m. Arizona is a -134 favorite in the game that has an under/over of 10 runs.
Whatever the sport, for the latest odds, go to https://www.fanduel.com/sportsbook-meadowlands
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. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.-11 p.m. The Lounge opens at noon on Sundays.