Thursday, February 16, 2023

There are many factors that handicappers use when making their selections at The Meadowlands. Some of the rationales lead to favorites, while others lead to big prices, something Big M players don’t mind waiting for, because at the mile oval, they do connect.

In the end, a player needs to find the right balance for them.

First up is class handicapping. The final time is one way to determine which horse is classier than which. If you have a horse whose been finishing fifth or sixth in his last six starts, but the winning time of the race is in the 1:51 range, we can assume with a degree of certainty that this horse is classier than one who’s been hitting the board lately in races that have been timed in 1:54 or so.

More sophisticated players can break the final mile times into fractional times, which can lead a player to an obscure horse at big odds.

Some players like to use statistical data that is available in the program to make their selections. It may not be easy to catch a horse at a big price when you play the top drivers and trainers, but they do tend to be a reliable way to go.

If a handicapper plays a horse who’s trained by Ron Burke and driven by Yannick Gingras, the expected payout is going to be less than if he uses a less prominent conditioner and pilot, but when one can sniff those out, the reward is usually realized.

When looking at past performances and a handicapper is trying to figure out which horse is classier than another, it’s good to have a chart that shows which claiming and conditioned classes are similar, not to mention the relatively new TrackMaster rating system, which has been one of the prominent new ways that race secretaries seed horses to make for competitive fields.

At The Meadowlands, race secretary Scott Warren has made his basic conditions simple to understand. With the help of the old, classified ABC system as a guide, we will illustrate how easy it is to follow the ups and downs of the class ladder at the mile oval.

AA = Marquee 3YO and 3YO & Up stakes

A1 = Free For All/Invitational

A2 = Non-winners of $20,000 last five starts or Preferred

A3 = Non-winners of $15,000 L5 or TrackMaster 90

B1 = Non-winners of $10,000 L5 or TM 86

B2 = Non-winners of $7,500 L5 or TM 83

B3 = Non-winners of $5,000 L5 or TM 80

C1 = Non-winners of $3,000 L5 or TM 77

C2 = TM 74

“The chart shows the various levels broken down into their simplest form,” said Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “The (above) chart is based on horses currently racing at The Meadowlands and how they perform in these events. The higher the class, the faster the competition. The end result is races that are the most competitive in the harness game, which yield a low percentage of winning favorites that are comparable to the top Thoroughbred tracks in North America.

“As we head into summer, some of these classes get much tougher and may need adjusting. Right now, a $10,000 claimer would be similar to a non-winners of $3,000 or TrackMaster 77. This level stays fairly consistent.”

On the other hand, some adjustments need to be made when doping out races with younger horses in the non-winners of “x” amount of races. In the winter, a non-winners of four is a middle condition, but as we move into summer, that condition becomes loaded with horses that will soon be racing at the top levels.

These are the ever-changing dynamics of racing that create the parimutuel puzzles that everyone loves to try and figure out to get paid every Friday and Saturday night.

WE’RE JUST WARMING UP: Live racing at The Meadowlands will take place every Friday and Saturday for the next 25 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.

11TH HEAVEN: A total of $3,360,314 was wagered on Saturday’s (Feb. 11) 14-race card, keeping The Big M perfect on Fridays and Saturdays.

There have been a total of 11 programs contested on Friday and Saturday nights during 2023, and each one has seen betting better the $3-million barrier.

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

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), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover) and Edison Hatter (@Edison_1999_).

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

HATTER’S RACE REVIEWS: Race reviews and selections by The Meadowlands’ morning-line odds maker 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, go to the “handicapping” tab, then click “race reviews”.

CHANGES IN THE LINEUP: They’ll be a fresh face and a fresh voice for viewers to enjoy when they check out the live “Racing from The Meadowlands” simulcast presentation this Friday (Feb. 17) and Saturday (Feb. 18).

Both nights, Otten will serve as host of the pregame show, which kicks off at 5:45 p.m., but each night, she’ll be joined in the co-host chair by Mike Bozich, the longtime track announcer at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

On Saturday, Peter Kleinhans, a man of many talents who drove a winner at The Big M last weekend, will call the 14-race card. Kleinhans, who can list “musician” as one of many things on his lengthy resume, has been calling races for several decades.

WINTER CHILI COOK-OFF: The winter edition of one of the more popular promotions at The Meadowlands takes place on Saturday, Feb. 25, when cooks (and tasters) can take part in the “Chili and Salsa Cook-Off”.

Over $3,000 in prizes will be up for grabs, and for those of you who want to enter, or just sample a bunch of delicious chili and salsa, go to

GALLERY LAUNCH PARTY: On Wednesday, March 1, come out to The Meadowlands and check out the launch of the newly redesigned Gallery from 6-9 p.m.

The Gallery will have sports action on 16 LED TVs, not to mention a jumbo 220-inch screen.

Are you planning to arrive early? The first 100 guests receive a mini-basketball set.

The event is free but guests must RSVP prior to enter.

For complete information, go to

GET YOUR SPORTS ACTION: With a thrilling championship professional football game in the rearview mirror, thanks to a 3-point victory by the Kansas City Chiefs over the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s time for sports bettors to settle into a groove of hockey and basketball before the start of baseball season in approximately six weeks.

Meadowlands’ regulars know that the best place to get their sports bets in is the FanDuel Sportsbook, the No. 1 facility of its type in North America, located in the grandstand at The Big M.

Local hockey fans may want to take a shot with one of the best teams in the NHL – the New Jersey Devils – Thursday (Feb. 16) night, when they travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues at 9 p.m.

New Jersey is +164 to cover a 1½-goal spread and -150 on the regular money line. The under/over is 6½ goals.

Whatever the sport, for the latest odds, go to

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.