East Rutherford, NJ — In harness racing, it’s not uncommon to see tracks with favorites that win at a rate of 45 percent and higher, but at The Meadowlands, the races play out more as they would at major Thoroughbred tracks, meaning bigger payouts for the patrons.
As of Monday (Feb. 10), the Big M’s post-time choices have been clicking 36 percent of the time, which is the same rate as at Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park. Santa Anita favorites are winning 38 percent of the time.
“The percentage of winning favorites at The Meadowlands shows that the racing office is doing a great job carding ultra-competitive races to wager on,” said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “Last weekend (Feb. 7-8), there were only seven winning favorites out of 26 races (27 percent) at The Meadowlands. If you go down the list of what is important to horse players, I think the Big M is getting it done as well as any track right now, especially when one considers our low 15 percent takeout on all of our Pick-4s, Pick-5s and Pick-6s.”
Last week, the mile oval saw wholesale changes to its betting menu — not to mention its post time — and the track’s faithful following responded in a big way.
While the new earlier post time of 6:55 p.m. must have taken some by surprise, the majority were ready, betting with both fists.
Handle on the first race both nights was vigorous, as $244,355 in bets were taken Friday before $293,871 was pushed through the windows Saturday.
Saturday’s total handle of $2,856,554 — third best of 2020 — saw an average per race of just under $220,000 and represented the fifth straight card where action exceeded $2.5 million.
The first race Pick-5, which saw a reduced base bet of 20 cents (down from 50 cents), took in big play, with total pools of $55,082 Friday and a season-best $72,364 Saturday.
Saturday’s payout of $3,548 was particularly impressive when one considers the odds of the winners, which were 2-1, 5-2, 7-2, 5-1 and 5-2. The $1 payout of $17,740 was more than 13 times what the parlay returned.
“Whether you are here for the start of the card or can’t get here until later on in the night, there is now a plethora of multi-race bets spaced out throughout the evening,” said Settlemoir.
One multi-leg bet now flows right into another on a typical 13-race card, as the 20-cent Pick-5 covers races one through five, the “signature” Early 50-cent Pick-4 is on races six through nine and the new Late 50-cent Pick-4 is on races 10 through 13.
Another new wager that was popular with players was the 20-cent Pick-6, which saw its total pool increase 36 percent to more than $24,000 on Saturday when compared to Friday. One Saturday sharpie took down the entire pool, cashing in for $20,797.
When compared to the “standard” 25 percent chop, that winner walked away with an extra $2,442 in his or her pocket given the Big M’s low 15 percent rake.
The move of the “signature” $50,000 guaranteed 50-cent Pick-4 to the sixth race was something bettors were ready for, as $68,473 and $86,015 were wagered Friday and Saturday, respectively, leading to payoffs of $758 and $291.
Besides the Pick-6, a new Late 50-cent Pick-4 debuted to rave reviews, with $53,229 in action taken Friday (leading to a payoff of $1,130) before $61,834 was put in play Saturday ($700).
“Our new multi-race menu offers four wagers on Friday and five on Saturday at the highly-reduced takeout of 15 percent,” said Settlemoir. “The Early and Late Pick-4, Pick-5, Pick-6 and the Saturday only Can-Am Pick-4. The math says that with the added money now going to the players, small losers can now become small winners and small winners can become big winners. Of course, we are counting on the support of price-conscious players — regardless of the size of their bankrolls — to make these multi-race wagers a must play.”
Total play on last weekend’s Pick-4s, Pick-5s and Pick-6s was almost $440,000, as $194,770 was wagered Friday before $244,787 was put in play Saturday.
Get Ready With Dave And Dave: The Big M TV team of Dave Brower and Dave Little are always there for players who want all the information needed to tackle a Meadowlands card.
Analysis and selections by Brower, who also serves as track odds maker, are always available 48 hours before a race card at playmeadowlands.com. The duo can be seen nightly on the “Meadowlands Live” simulcast show beginning at 6:22 p.m., with whomever is in the co-host chair providing an in-depth look at that evening’s Pick-5. The Daves provide best bets and value plays on the card — as well as a look at the night’s featured races — before coming on-camera before race six to give out tickets for the night’s Early 50-cent Pick-4.
Both handicappers have done well of late, with Little — who gives out “Little’s Late Double” before the 12th race every night — having given out three straight doubles, a streak that ended last Saturday, the same night that Brower gave out the Early Pick-4 that paid $291.
Twitter Talk: Connect with everyone on the Meadowlands’ TV (and TVG) team on Twitter: Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1), Dave Brower (@eedoogie), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover), Rich Mattei (@Richmattei16), Mike Bozich (@MikeBozich) and Peter Kleinhans (@PKleinhansMusic). And for selections and everything Meadowlands, go to #playbigm.
• On Feb. 14, card players who are 21 or older can play Texas Hold’em on “Free Poker Friday,” hosted by World Free Poker.
• On Feb. 14, bring your sweetheart to the races and enjoy a fabulous Valentine’s Day dinner in the Big M’s Pink Restaurant. You might be one of three couples to win a gift certificate for a bed and breakfast stay in Cape May, N.J. For reservations, call 201.THE.BIGM.
• On Feb. 22, The Big M will host its February World Harness Handicapping Championship Qualifier. The top two finishers will qualify for the WHHC final. It’s only $200 to play ($100 to enter; $100 bankroll). For complete information, check out the brochure at this link.