East Rutherford, NJ — Any naysayer talk of harness racing’s demise has been reduced to a barely audible whisper these days, as the sport has seen a solid increase in business during the first quarter of 2023, with betting at The Meadowlands leading the charge.
During the first three months of 2023, there were 26 programs contested at The Big M (there was one cancelation due to cold conditions). There were a pair of Sunday afternoon cards during January, leaving 24 Friday and Saturday evening programs, with each of those cards seeing wagering exceed the $3 million mark.
During the first quarter of last year, the $3 million barrier was busted but four times. In addition, it took the entire racing calendar year of 2022 — 85 programs — to bet $3 million 23 times.
Needless to say, Big M business has been booming.
“We have received extraordinary support this year from our horsemen and our horseplayers,” said Meadowlands’ Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “Our numbers haven’t been this strong in decades. We have fought a long, hard battle to become the No. 1 track in the evening marketplace again. With the help of Gov. (Phil) Murphy and the State Legislature of New Jersey, we can proudly say that The Meadowlands intends to stay there.”
Here are some comparisons from last year to this, showing how much things have changed for the better. As well as the bettor:
During the first quarter of 2022, a total of $59.2 million was pushed through the windows on Meadowlands’ races, for an average per race card of $2,820,649. This year, those numbers have ballooned to $85.4 million and $3,287,164, a staggering increase of just under $467,000 per card. The total increase stands at $26.2 million.
March was nothing short of marvelous at The Big M, as the average handle on Friday nights was $3,499,203, while Saturday’s average wager was $3,697,352. The first weekend of the month saw the only two $4 million handles of the year in North America, as on Friday (March 3) an industry-best $4,519,050 was put in play, while the next night (Saturday, March 4) saw wagering total $4,062,855.
“Our goal is to keep this momentum throughout the season,” said Settlemoir. “And in the coming weeks, our product will be shown to a national television audience on the networks of Fox Sports. (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer) Jeff (Gural) and I have always thought showing our races to an audience that may not know that we can provide a product that’s as competitive as the Thoroughbred races they are accustomed to, could provide some “crossover” fans, and given how well we’ve done so far this year, that transition appears to already be in motion.”
The sport as a whole has also seen increased business, with a total of $380 million in bets placed during the first quarter of 2023, as compared to the year before, when $351 million of action was taken. The $29 million increase (eight percent) occurred despite the total of race programs decreasing 12 percent.
Derby Preps: For those who will be heading to The Meadowlands this Saturday, they will find not only the best harness racing anywhere (14 races with a post time of 6:20 p.m.), but also many of the top 3-year-olds in Thoroughbred racing as well, as they prepare for the biggest horse race on the planet, the Kentucky Derby.
The next two Saturdays will offer a look at some of the major Derby contenders, and all the races will be offered at The Big M in one of the most expansive simulcast areas anywhere.
The Derby preps are the Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby and Bluegrass on April 8 before the Lexington on April 15.
Derby Day Dining: “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” is the Kentucky Derby, so come on out to The Meadowlands on May 6 and catch the “Run for the Roses” in one of the best simulcast facilities you’ll find anywhere.
The race is slated to go to the gate at 6:57 p.m.
Want to relax and have a nice meal? Well, The Big M can take care of that, too.
There are a handful of ways to go, including a $100 option, which is a table for four with the cost going towards food in the Café.
There will also be availability in the Lounge, which has $50 seats in the bar, as well as 2- and 4-person tables at $50 per person.
There is also a big Derby Day buffet in Pink Restaurant for $64.95.
For complete information, or to buy tickets, click here.
#Senditin: The live “Racing from The Meadowlands” simulcast show takes place every racing night from the Sam McKee Memorial Broadcast Set, with news, notes, selections and commentary on the night’s featured races.
This weekend, there will be a special guest sitting alongside host Dave Little, as Gabe Prewitt, the leader of the #Senditin army last heard serving as the race caller at Northfield Park for the last few weeks, will be on set talking about the card, as well as doing what he does best, handicapping the races and giving out Pick-4 tickets.
Join Little and Prewitt beginning at 5:45 p.m. immediately after track announcer Ken Warkentin gives out program changes. During the night, Jessica Otten (on Friday) will have interviews from the back paddock while Edison Hatter provides commentary for FanDuel TV’s coverage of the races. Hatter will handle both the paddock and FDTV on Saturday.
The Races Keep On Coming: Live racing at The Meadowlands will take place every Friday and Saturday for the next 18 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.
Don’t Pay: Free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to playmeadowlands.com.
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).
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.
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 14: Late 10-cent Hi-5
Hatter’s Race Reviews: Race reviews and selections by The Meadowlands’ morning-line oddsmaker, 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 playmeadowlands.com, go to the “handicapping” tab, then click “race reviews.”