Thursday, June 15, 2023

It seemed like all of harness racing was rooting for the Denver Nuggets to win their first NBA championship Monday (June 12) night, and the reason is Nikola Jokic.

Jokic, considered by just about everyone who knows basketball to be the best player on Earth, led his Nuggets to a 94-89 victory over the Miami Heat, giving Denver a four-games-to-one win of the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

Maybe Jokic can now dedicate a bit more time to his other passion, harness racing.

“He told me, ‘My job is basketball, but my passion is horse racing,’” Tim Tetrick told the New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy. “[Jokic] said, ‘I would trade jobs with you in a heartbeat if it paid better.’

Jokic and Tetrick met several years ago on Facebook.

“Just a down-to-earth kind of dude. Lowkey,” said Tetrick. “You wouldn’t know he gets paid $40 million a year to play basketball. He shows up with sweats to the barn. Then he’s got his training suit and jumps in and he just loves to hang out.”

Jokic visited The Big M in December of 2021 and checked out the action in the back paddock. When he was in town to play the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks in March of this year, ‘The Joker’ spent some time at Brett Pelling’s barn.

“He stopped in the barn earlier this spring,” said Pelling. “He came at six in the morning. He has good knowledge of the horses. He’s very eager to listen, and wants to talk about horses, not basketball. He’s really into learning. How do you train? How do you feed? Very good questions. He has a real base understanding. He was definitely absorbing information.”

Jokic, 28, grew up on a farm in Sombor, a city in the northern part of Serbia, where as a teenager he fell in love with horses, specifically trotters, at the track in his hometown and even worked there for six years cleaning stalls. He owns his own farm with a training track and, when HRU did a feature about the triple-double King a year-and-a-half ago, he owned about nine trotters.

Jokic is a two-time NBA MVP, and now, has added NBA champion and NBA Finals MVP to his resume. Maybe he’s now setting his sights on a Meadowlands Pace or Hambletonian trophy.

$30,000 SWEEPSTAKES: This Saturday (June 17), ask yourself: Do you like money?

If the answer is “yes”, make sure you are at The Meadowlands early. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. there will be a name called every 15 minutes, and if it’s yours, you can collect a cash prize. But don’t dilly-dally. If the prize goes unclaimed (winners are given 15 minutes to claim the prize), it is rolled into the next drawing.

The sweepstakes will total $30,000 in prize money and there will be drawings every 15 minutes from 6:30 p.m. – 11:15 p.m.

THE PAST MASTERS LIVE: On Saturday (June 17), come on up to the roof at The Meadowlands and check out the classic rock sounds of The Past Masters. The show begins at 5:30 p.m. and the party goes all night long.

FABULOUS FRIDAY: The Friday (June 16) program at The Big M is the stronger of the two offered at the track this weekend since many of the top drivers at the mile oval will be up at Woodbine Mohawk Park participating in the North America Cup on Saturday (June 17).

Friday’s Early 50-cent Pick-4 will offer its usual $50,000 guarantee, but the caliber of racing will be higher than usual.

A pair of $50,000 divisions of the second leg of the Graduate Series for pacers and a $75,000 Graduate leg two on the trot will make up 75 percent of the sequence. In addition, the seventh race 10-cent Hi-5 (or Pentafecta, if you prefer) will start out with $15,446 in the pot after last Saturday’s Hi-5 went unhit when a 20-1 shot and an 85-1 chance finished 1-2 to create a carryover.

With a low 15 percent “rake”, the chances are good that the Hi-5 will result in a negative takeout.

COUNTDOWN TO THE PACE: A true Big M original is one worthy of making a circle on your calendar for.

The $700,000 (est.) Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-olds is one of the most important of all stakes races in the harness industry, and will take place on Saturday, July 15. Be sure not to miss “The Greatest Party in Harness Racing”.

WHO WILL DRINK FROM THE CUP? The Saturday night program at Woodbine Mohawk Park is nothing short of spectacular, as it has a laundry list of stakes events, headed by the $1-million North America Cup.

In addition to The Big M’s 13-race live card, you can watch and wager on the entire WMP program as well. “And you’ll miss none of the action,” said track Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “As The Meadowlands will show all of the races from Woodbine Mohawk between our races. Also, after our final race, Woodbine Mohawk Park will have a mandatory payout on their High-5, which begins with a carryover of $213,123.”

THIS ONE’S FOR THE GIRLS: Make that two, actually.

When Arcangelo hit the wire first in Saturday’s (June 10) Belmont Stakes, it marked the first time that a female trainer won a Thoroughbred Triple Crown event.

Later that night, Lauren Tritton guided Lochinvar Art A to victory lane in the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield Park, becoming the first female driver in history to not only participate, but win, the storied event at the “Home of the Flying Turns.”

OTTEN, LITTLE ARE MASTERFUL: Night 3 (Friday, June 9) of the track’s “Battle of The Meadowlands Masterminds” handicapping contest ended with the most exciting finish in the two-year history of the event, as Jessica Otten edged past Ken Warkentin by $5 with a winning wager in the eighth race to finish with a bankroll of $725.

Warkentin, whose lone hit was for $720 with a $100 Exacta play in the fifth race, seemingly had the contest wrapped up, but Otten’s $100-win, $50-place bet on Texas Miki gave her just enough to secure the victory.

Otten also gave her fan’s bankrolls a jolt when she correctly selected the Early 50-cent Pick-4, which returned $289.35.

Saturday (June 10) belonged to Dave Little, as the veteran member of the Big M TV team selected eight winners on top on the 13-race card.

Little also won Night 4 of “The Battle”, as his best bet Better Than Some scored to give the one-time Daily News racing writer/handicapper a final bankroll on the night of $900. He also tabbed the Late Pick-4, which he had four times for a total hit of $587.40, and also hit “Little’s Late Double” for $184.50 after having the DD seven-and-a-half times.

For the two bets, his profits totaled $703.90.

The “Masterminds” competition will take place for the next 15 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 will take 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. Gabe Prewitt is playing for CBH Care, the charity that the late Dave Brower played for last year. Otten will be playing for New Vocations, 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 is 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

WINE FEST: On Saturday, June 24, head to the track for the “Summer Wine Festival”.

The event, which is rain or shine, offers a $65 ticket for VIP customers, who will taste from 4 p.m.-9 p.m.; while $45 is the price for a GA ticket, with tasting from 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

For complete details, and to purchase tickets, go to 2023 Meadowlands Racetrack Wine Fest Tickets in East Rutherford, NJ, United States (

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: Every Saturday 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 (Racetrack Television Network).

THE RACES KEEP ON COMING: Live racing at The Meadowlands will take place every Friday and Saturday for the next eight 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.

DON’T PAY: Free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to

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.

The list:

  • 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 13 or 14: Late 10-cent Hi-5

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, 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.

The New York Yankees and New York Mets are off on Thursday (June 15) after having split the two-game Subway Series at Citi Field, but that doesn’t mean the action slows down at “The Book”.

One game to consider on the Thursday card begins at 8:05 p.m. when the Pittsburgh Pirates travel to Chicago to take on the Cubs. Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman has had an outstanding year for the Cubs, with a 7-4 record and a National League-leading 2.42 ERA. The Cubs have a winning home record (17-16) and are -162 favorites to win the game. The under/over is 7.

In golf, the U.S. Open is underway, and as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Scottie Scheffler is the +600 favorite to win the tournament. He is followed by Jon Rahm (+900), Brooks Koepka (+1100) and Rory McIlroy (+1200).

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. The Lounge opens at noon on Sundays.