East Rutherford, NJ — Two horsemen stood out in front of the rest during the first weekend of racing at The Meadowlands in 2022 as driver Yannick Gingras recorded eight winners over the course of Jan. 7-8 while trainer Mark Ford schooled four to victory lane.
Gingras, who will be inducted into harness racing’s Hall of Fame in July, was the bettors’ best friend, winning at a 32 percent clip. His three seconds and five thirds gave him a total of 16 on-the-board finishes from 25 starts, meaning that the 42-year-old Quebec native “hit the ticket” 64 percent of the time.
His Return On Investment (ROI) was plus 18 percent.
Heading into Friday’s card, Gingras thought he might have some success. He was right, hitting victory lane five times.
“I had some power and they were ready to race,” said Gingras.
And what’s ahead for this season?
“I’m looking forward to staying healthy and having a good 2022,” said Gingras. “Atlanta is coming back. And Branded By Lindy. There’s many others I’m looking forward to driving. This Is The Plan. And Blue Diamond Eyes, who finished (2021) strong.”
Ford’s four scores came from just five starts, and his lone non-winner came in third, so his win (80) and in-the-money (100) percentages were both remarkable.
His ROI was off the charts at plus 426 percent, as his winners returned $6.60, $17.20, $16.80 and $12.00 to win. Gingras drove all but one of Ford’s winner’s circle visitors.
“Every little bit helps. It’s not the first time that’s happened, you know,” joked Ford, with his tongue firmly in cheek.
On a more serious note, the President of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey for the last seven years is pleased with the current harness racing environment in the Garden State.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs over the last four or five years,” said Ford. “We have finally righted the ship and it seems like better times are ahead. Getting a piece of the sports wagering and the appropriation from the state have us going well now.
“(Meadowlands Chairman and Chief Executive Officer) Jeff Gural, some people like him, some don’t, but the proof is in the pudding. He has gone after the drug problem and bettors have a good feeling that they are getting a better shake when they go to The Meadowlands.”
The Sked: Racing at The Big M is conducted on a Friday-Saturday basis and has a first-race post time of 6:20 p.m. The track’s live “Racing from The Meadowlands” pre-game show kicks off nightly at 5:37 p.m.
Climb In The Sulky: There will be some special guests on the track’s “In the Sulky” pre-game show segment this weekend. Jim King Solomon, who played a key role in putting together this weekend’s Dr. Martin Luther King Remembrance events will be interviewed by Dave Little on Friday while Dave Brower will be joined by Northwood Bloodstock’s Bob Boni on Saturday. Brower and Boni will be talking about Monday’s Winter Mixed Sale at The Big M.
Big Pools, Small Takeouts: The Meadowlands is the industry’s handle leader, and much of the reason why is many of the bets the mile oval offers feature a low takeout of 15 percent.
Here is a rundown of those wagers for the upcoming weekend:
• Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5
• Race 3: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7
• Race 6: 50-cent Early Pick-4 ($50,000 guaranteed pool)
• Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6
• Race 10: 50-cent Late Pick-4 ($50,000 guaranteed pool)
• Race 15: 10-cent Pentafecta/Hi-5
Who Does Brower Like? For expert selections and analysis of every Big M card, check out track oddsmaker Brower’s race reviews.
For Brower’s input, which is generally available 48 hours before every card, go to playmeadowlands.com, then click on the “handicapping” tab and go to “race reviews.”
Free Programs: Free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands program are available 48 hours before a given card. To access the no-cost official program pages, go to playmeadowlands.com.
A New Look: The Meadowlands website has had a makeover, and those seeking the 411 on everything Big M can now do so at a site with a clean, modern design that is mobile phone responsive.
As it has always been, the address is playmeadowlands.com and is worth checking out.
Get Social: 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), Brower (@eedoogie), Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover), Shades (@ShadesOnRacing) and Edison Hatter (@Edison_1999_).
What’s Coming Up? On Saturday (Jan. 22), The Big M will host a World Harness Handicapping Championship Qualifier where the prize money — based on 50 entrants — is $10,000. In addition, the top four finishers get a seat in the WHHC final, which takes place at the mile oval on Saturday (Sept. 10).
For complete details, click here.
One of the more popular promotions at the track is the “Chili Cook-Off,” which takes place on Saturday (Jan. 29). Patrons can walk around and taste samples, or, if you have a chili recipe, come on out and participate. You might walk away with the $1,000 grand prize.
For more information, click here.