East Rutherford, NJ — Expectations are normally low at The Meadowlands during the month of June with other tracks’ major events historically drawing some interest — and handle — away from the mile oval, but this year was different, as June saw a huge increase in play over the previous year.
With a nightly average all-source handle of $2,623,848, June of 2019 saw an increase of more than $750,000 a night over June of 2018. The average per race action last month was $222,779, which was $43,000 more than the June from the year before.
Even on big nights for out-of-town tracks, the Big M still did vigorous 2019 business. On North America Cup night, handle ($2.6 million) was up $850,725 over the year before, an increase of 48 percent. On Sun Stakes night, betting at the Big M was $2.599 million, an increase of $623,421 (32 percent) from 12 months prior.
The biggest reason for the increases are higher purses, which lead to fuller fields, which drive the handle machine at the Meadowlands.
“You can really see how the new purse structure — created with the help of our governor and legislators — have brought the wagering dollars back to the Meadowlands,” said track Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “June is historically our slowest month of the year. It is incredibly encouraging to see that even though the top drivers and trainers leave in June to race in Canada and the Poconos, we have been able to put out a wagering product that resulted in the highest nightly June average in over a decade.”
With just over a month left in the Big M’s 2018-19 meeting, the numbers figure to get even bigger from here.
“Heading into the final five weeks of the meet with our two premier events — the Meadowlands Pace and Hambletonian — coming up, all economic indicators at the Big M suggest that New Jersey racing is back in a big way,” said Settlemoir.
There will be plenty of opportunities for Big M fans to dive into some big pools this weekend, as Friday (July 5) night’s 14-race program features nine 10-horse fields and one with 11 starters. The first race gets underway at 7:15 p.m.
Saturday (July 6) is a huge night, featuring a pair of $250,000 Graduate Series finals as well as two eliminations for the track’s signature event, the $700,000 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace. The first of 11 races goes to the gate at a special early post time of 6:35 p.m. and the program will end sometime before 11 p.m. so that the track can showcase a brilliant fireworks show.
There will also be reduced-priced concessions as the Big M salutes its faithful following on “Fan Appreciation Night.”
Pace Night: The Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace final is the centerpiece for “The Greatest Night in Harness Racing” and takes places on Saturday (July 13). Post time is 7:15 p.m.
In addition to the Pace, there are a handful of other major events, including the Mistletoe Shalee, Stanley Dancer, Del Miller, William Haughton, Golden Girls and Hambletonian Maturity.
Pace Night is a good night to be a barbecue lover, as that evening from 6-10 p.m. in The Backyard, patrons can come and sample some serious eats from some of the best local food trucks and restaurants in the area at the track’s “BBQ Battle.”