DeFrank’s vision helped Big M rise to harness heights

East Rutherford, NJ — To use race caller terminology, The Meadowlands is in “deep stretch” of its Summer meeting with just two weekends of racing remaining, with the final day being the granddaddy of them all, Hambletonian Day, on Saturday (Aug. 7).

This Saturday (July 31), 36 sophomore trotters will compete for spots in not only the $1 million Hambletonian final, but also its sister event, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks final, as both events will have two eliminations. The Hambletonian elims will whittle 16 male trotters down to 10 while the fillies will see half of 20 entrants advance.

The finals for the Hambo and Hambo Oaks will serve as the marquee events on a spectacular 16-race program on Aug. 7 that has a special early post time of noon.

Much of The Meadowlands’ rise to the top of North American harness racing can be attributed to the late, great, longtime former racing secretary Joe DeFrank. With The Meadowlands Pace — a race conceived by DeFrank in 1977 — now in the rearview mirror, looking back at some of what made DeFrank such a pivotal part of The Big M’s legacy is well timed.

First of all, DeFrank had a thought of how racing would look at The Big M. His vision turned out to be the catalyst to send the big oval in East Rutherford to the head of the harness racing class.

It all started with a 10-horse starting gate and the bigger one-mile track. Then, he spoke with the drivers.

“In the first driver’s meeting we ever had here,” said DeFrank, “I tried to lay out the style of racing that I wanted. No backing off to the halves. No sitting in. If you are on the outside, just keep going. I want you out and going and moving. And if you get beat, you get beat.”

DeFrank’s plan came through TV screens across America on Meadowlands Pace night (July 17). In the four-race sequence shown live on Fox Sports 2, a national television audience saw no winning favorites, no winners coming from inside posts, no horses winning on the lead and 15 horses that went parked the entire mile, an average of almost four per race.

“The (Meadowlands) Pace night national telecast was Meadowlands’ Championship meeting racing in its most contentious form,” said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “A style of racing that Joe DeFrank and the current Meadowlands ownership believe showcases Standardbred racing at its competitive best. Forty-five years later, DeFrank’s vision, adapted to today’s racing style and combined with the perfect one-mile racetrack, continues to create the highest handles and the most exciting Standardbred racing in the world.”

(To see a video of Joe DeFrank, go to

Pick Six Carryover: There were no winning tickets sold in the 20-cent Pick-6 last Saturday (July 24) night, so there will be a carryover of $10,855 heading into the wager with the low 15 percent takeout. The bet kicks off in the eighth race on Friday (July 30) night.

Pick-4 Has Hambo Hook: On Saturday (July 31) night, the two Hambletonian eliminations will kick off both 20-cent Pick-4s. The bets with the low 15 percent takeout and $50,000 guaranteed pool begin on races six and 10, respectively.

Fabulous Full Fields: Both Hambletonian Oaks eliminations (races five and seven) will offer full 10-horse fields that are extremely competitive and will offer plenty of opportunities to make a score.

Free Programs: Free programs for every race of every Meadowlands card are available to the public, and all one has to do to access them is go to

Low Takeout, Big Payouts: Here are the six popular Meadowlands’ wagers that offer a low 15 percent takeout on a nightly basis:

Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5
Race 3: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7
Race 6: 50-cent Pick-4
Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6
Race 10: 50-cent Pick-4
Race 13: 10-cent Hi-5/Pentafecta

Start Tweeting: You can always check in with the team at The Meadowlands on Twitter.

For early changes, racing information and staff selections, go to @themeadowlands or #playbigm.

On race nights, stay in touch with the Big M’s Dave Brower (@eedoogie), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover) and Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1).

Brower’s Best Bets: For those who like to get a leg up on the action, go to to see oddsmaker Brower’s selections and analysis. Click on the “handicapping” tab and go to “race reviews.”

Brower’s input is generally available 48 hours before every card.

How To Get In The Game: The best way to experience the action on the track and at the windows is to go to The Meadowlands, but for those who can’t make the trip, they can still tune in and get their action.

One of the best ways to watch the action at The Big M — as well as all other races at other venues — is to get a subscription to Roberts Television Network. All you do is go to for an affordable way to bring the action to your TV, smartphone or other device.

A good way to get your bets in is to use the Television Games Network ( or your favorite Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) site.

Check Out The Show: Big M TV’s live “Racing from The Meadowlands” pre-game show, which provides news, notes, features, staff selections and a look at that evening’s marquee races, gets underway at 5:47 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night.

Live action continues for the next two weekends on Friday and Saturday. Post time is 6:20 p.m. with one exception: Hambletonian Day (noon).

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