Thursday, March 21, 2024

This weekend, patrons at The Meadowlands will be in a tournament tizzy, as The Big M brings back a competition that’s an old favorite and offers another that’s as popular as any in all of American sports.

In fact, you could call The Big M “Tournament Central”.

After a brief hiatus, The Meadowlands is bringing back a live money handicapping contest on Saturday (March 23) night.

There is no entry fee ($100 live money bankroll required) for players and the prize pool is a guaranteed $5,000, which will be fully funded by The Big M. The night of the contest, players must register/check-in at the Clubhouse Lobby by 6:20 p.m., and a $100 betting card must be purchased to participate, as this is a live money/wagering contest.

The contest format:

  • Contestants must bet a minimum of 10 Meadowlands races
  • $10 minimum bet per race; no maximum bet
  • Win, Place, Show and/or Exacta wagers only
  • One horse per race
  • Unlimited entries allowed per person
  • Players keep all pari-mutuel winnings

For complete contest rules and regulations, go here

In addition, harness racing handicappers will no doubt consider themselves college basketball experts for the next few weeks, when the FanDuel Sportsbook will be buzzing with action on the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament.

With the “First Four” round already completed (with games that took place Tuesday and Wednesday), the 64-team first round takes place Thursday (March 21) and Friday (March 22).

Once those games are complete, the 32-team second round will be contested on Saturday (March 23) and Sunday (March 24).

That’s 48 games over a four-day span, so the place for hoops fans is “The Book”, which is located inside the grandstand at the mile oval, and, by the way, is the No. 1 facility of its type in North America.

It is the ideal spot to watch the tournament with numerous HD TVs spread throughout the building along with self-service and teller-operated wagering machines.

The schedule for the remainder of the tournament:

  • Sweet 16:March 28-29
  • Elite Eight:March 30-31
  • Final Four:April 6
  • Championship:April 8

WHO ARE THE TOP CHOICES? The oddsmakers are thinking repeat as the UConn Huskies are the +370 favorites to win a second consecutive National Championship.

The second choice is Houston at +550, followed by Purdue at +700, Arizona at +1200, Auburn at +1500 and North Carolina at +1800 each.

Whatever the sport, for the latest odds, go here

The FanDuel Sportsbook is open Monday-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.

ANOTHER WILD WEEKEND: Last weekend (March 15-16) was yet another of extraordinary action at the industry’s handle leader, as total betting over the two race cards came less than $100,00 short of becoming the second $7-million weekend of 2024.

The Saturday program saw $3,644,648 pushed through the windows on the 14-race program after Friday business was $3,265,089.

There have been 21 cards contested at The Big M during 2024, with 18 of them seeing wagering bust the $3-million barrier.

BET A LITTLE, WIN A LOT: The possibility of making a big score is a big reason for wagering being what it is at The Meadowlands, and last weekend saw a handful of prolific payoffs.

Friday’s big hits came in the 20-cent Pick-6 ($29,854, aided by a carryover) and 20-cent Survivor Pick-7 ($7,590) while Saturday’s huge payouts came in the 20-cent Pick-8 ($12,926 after a five-day carryover) and Pick-6 ($11,499).

“Our wagering menu creates plenty of opportunities for all kinds of horseplayers to make scores,” said Meadowlands’ Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “Our lower takeouts return more to the players and that plays a crucial role in our success. The extra money is the fuel that keeps the players in action.

“Full competitive fields on a mile track can generate big pools that make those large payouts possible. You saw that all weekend, as bettors at The Big M pushed the weekend handle to almost $7 million.”

BET WITH LITTLE, WIN A LOT: Big M TV’s Dave Little was on target Saturday night, selecting eight winners, which included Sunshine’s Finest ($16.20) in the first race and Mask On Mask Off ($10.40) in the eighth. In addition, Little tabbed the 50-cent Early Pick-4 cold ($41.20).

On Friday night, Little had four on top, including Hockey Hanover, who returned $26.40 to win as a 12-1 outsider.

15-YEAR-OLD ON A ROLL: The remarkable Mariner Seelster won again Friday (March 15) night, upping his win streak to four, in a Meadowlands Amateur Driving Club 2 event on the pace.

The 15-year-old gelded son of Camluck-M T Freedom, permitted to race only because horses beyond the age of 14 are eligible to perform in fair or amateur dashes in New Jersey, was roughed up four-wide into the first turn, finally made the top while parked at the half in a sizzling :54.3, then drew clear of his foes at the head of the stretch before going on to a sparkling 1:52.3 score.

“He’s as sound and happy as he’s ever been,” said winning trainer Travis Alexander of ‘Mariner’, who made the 440th start of his career. “You can see his ears up during the mile and we couldn’t be more amazed by him than we are. He loves his job, that’s for sure.”

Mariner Seelster now has 74 lifetime wins and paid $4.20 as the even-money favorite despite leaving from post nine in the nine-horse field. Unfortunately, for his many fans, he will be taking this week off.

SUPER SATURDAY SIMULCASTS: In addition to outside on the apron to catch the live racing and the FanDuel Sportsbook to bet on college hoops, another Big M hot spot this weekend will be the track’s expansive simulcast area, where Thoroughbred racing fans will continue their countdown to the May 4 Kentucky Derby with a pair of major preps for the “Run for the Roses” on Saturday afternoon.

The $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks takes place at Turfway Park and has a post time of 6:25 p.m. Then, just 17 minutes later at the Fairgrounds is the $1-million Louisiana Derby.

Down the road, on Saturday, March 30, is the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby before the final major preps take place on April 6, when the Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby and Bluegrass Stakes are in the spotlight.

TWO WEEKS TO SURVIVE: Yes, spring officially began Tuesday (March 19) evening, but the track’s Winter Meet Survival Challenge, powered by 123Racing, still has two weeks to go, and when the contest concludes, cash prizes and Meadowlands swag will go to those at or near the top of the leaderboard in the free online competition.

TrackMaster is providing Platinum Past Performances for each night of the contest. The game covers the Winter Meet and concludes on Saturday, March 30.

The contest began Jan. 5 with 2,323 participants, and thus far, almost 2,000 of those have been eliminated, leaving 332 in the hunt for the top prize.

Currently, the top three in the standings are OnTheEngine ($529.40), Racetrack Ruler ($499.40) and Berto ($485.80).

There is also a prize for who picks the most winners. Sitting at the top of the heap is joejets with 28. There is a two-way tie for second, as Ramey44 and Loislitt have 25 each.

The winner will be 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 on each program.

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 (one winner in each month)

FREE PROGRAMS EVERY NIGHT: Past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available free of charge. All one has to do is go to to access the information.

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

PICK-4s ARE PICK-FABULOUS: Last weekend, betting on the Big M’s four 50-cent Pick-4s was once again vigorous, as a total of $364,409 was pushed through the windows, good for an average of $91,102 per pool.

The most action came on Saturday’s Late Pick-4, when $103,429 was put in play.

DRIVE OF THE WEEK: On Friday night, John Calabrese was named the first recipient of the track’s weekly “Drive of the Week” award for his handling of Allindotime, who won on Friday, March 8, after superbly timed piloting from the 2023 Dan Patch Amateur Driver of the Year.

Want to get involved?

Each Monday, following the weekend of racing, The Meadowlands will post a poll on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) asking fans to vote for their favorite drive of the past weekend. The poll will run for 24 hours, allowing one vote per X handle.

Meadowlands TV and management will select at least two outstanding drives from the weekend to include in the poll.  Fans can suggest a drive to be included in the poll via X. If that drive is included in the poll, the fan will receive a $25 betting voucher valid at The Meadowlands (for those 18+, random drawing used if multiple fans suggest the same drive).

The winning drive will be announced every Tuesday afternoon and the winning driver will receive a $500 donation to the charity of their choice, courtesy of Jeff Gural and the Meadowlands.

CHECK OUT THE SHOW: The Big M’s live “Racing from The Meadowlands” pregame show takes place before every live race card from the Sam McKee Memorial Broadcast Set.

The broadcast begins at 5:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, before the live racing kicks off at 6:20 p.m.

This Friday, Michael Carter will be in town from Northfield Park and sit alongside Jessica Otten on set before the Big M’s “A”-team of Otten and Dave Little will be on the desk Saturday.

For fans who follow the races on FanDuel TV, Little will be providing commentary on Friday before Carter sits in that chair Saturday.

“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), Little (@DaveLittleBigM) and Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover).

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”.