The Big M: almost 50 years of game-changing action

East Rutherford, NJ — It was September of 1976 when The Meadowlands opened, and it was then that the sport of harness racing changed forever.

Now just 31 months away from celebrating a half-century as the top track in the sport, the mile oval continues to deliver racing that sports a competitive style — featuring full 10-horse fields — that these days has handle at a level not seen at any harness track in recent memory.

“All the talk about whether sports bettors and Thoroughbred bettors could be converted to Standardbred players at The Big M has been answered,” said track Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “With football season now over, all you need to look at is the handle on Saturday nights since the NFL concluded playing on Saturdays on Jan. 20. The four Saturdays without pro football have seen wagering total over $14 million on our races.”

The Saturday Fab Four (all-source total handle):

Jan. 27: $3,779,096
Feb. 3: $3,631,898
Feb. 10: $3,456,865
Feb. 17: $3,505,227
Total: $14,373,086
Average per card: $3,593,271
Average per race: $256,662

“The Meadowlands’ large fields have been enticing horseplayers around the world to play our product,” said Settlemoir. “Field size has averaged 9.26 horses per race during 2024. There are only two Thoroughbred tracks in the country that have an average field size of over nine horses, Oaklawn (9.61) and Turfway Park (9.37). This weekend (Feb. 23-24), 268 horses are scheduled to compete at The Big M over the course of the two 14-race programs, an average of 9.57 per race.”

The exceptional average field size creates big pools that lead to player-pleasing payouts much of the time. Last week at The Big M was no exception.

Saturday (Feb. 17) saw three multi-leg pools exceed $100,000: the 20-cent Pick-6 ($107,714), Early 50-cent Pick-4 ($102,001) and Late 50-cent Pick-4 ($110,086). Those wagers are three of the eight multi-leg bets at The Big M that offer a low 15 percent takeout.

Some of Saturday’s superb scores were enjoyed by those who had winning 20-cent Pick-8 ($32,635) and 20-cent Survivor Pick-7 ($12,639) tickets. The Pick-8 was hit for the first time in eight programs after starting the night with a carryover of almost $20,000.

Friday’s (Feb. 16) big hits came in the Early ($5,014) and Late Pick-4 ($5,277).

Get Free PPs: Past performances for every race of every Meadowlands program are available free of charge by going to

The Great Eight: The Meadowlands provides eight opportunities for the player to make a score trying their luck betting in pools with a low 15 percent takeout. The lineup of The Big M’s “Great Eight” is as follows (all wagers — with the exception of the Pick-7 — are carryover eligible):

Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5
Race 2: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7
Race 4: 20-cent Pick-8
Race 6: 50-cent Pick-4 ($50,000 guarantee)
Race 7: 20-cent High-5
Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6
Race 10: 50-cent Pick-4 ($50,000 guarantee)
Race 11: 20-cent High-5

Check Out The Show: Join The Meadowlands’ TV team this weekend as they will be on the Sam McKee Memorial Broadcast Set with The Big M’s live “Racing from The Meadowlands” pregame show.

The broadcast will start at 5:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, before the live program begins at 6:20 p.m.

“X” Marks The Spot: Everything Meadowlands is available by going on X (formerly known as Twitter). You can check in with the Big M team for early changes, racing information and staff selections by going to @themeadowlands or #playbigm.

Stay in touch with The Big M team of Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM) and Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover).

Witherite’s Race Reviews: Race reviews and selections by The Meadowlands’ morning-line oddsmaker and program analyst James Witherite are available 48 hours before a given race card. To access, simply go to, go to the “handicapping” tab, then click “race reviews.”

Chili Champions: As usual, The Big M’s Winter Chili Cook-off was a great success with many contestants showing off their chili skills. Track patrons didn’t have to cook anything (if they didn’t want to), but got to sample all of the chilis (and salsas) during what was a fun evening.

The winners in the various divisions of the contest held on Saturday (Feb. 17):

Homestyle chili: Trevor Hoeckele
Salsa: T. Carmac
People’s choice: Alyssa Wilder
Best booth: Kelly McCarthy

Survival Mode: The track’s Winter Meet Survival Challenge, powered by 123Racing, is in full swing, and when the contest concludes, cash prizes and Meadowlands swag will go to those at or near the top of the leaderboard in the free online competition.

TrackMaster is providing Platinum Past Performances for each night of the contest. The game covers the Winter Meet and concludes March 30.

The contest began Jan. 5 with 2,322 participants, and thus far, a little more than 1,500 of those handicappers have been eliminated, leaving 783 in the hunt for the top prize.

Currently, the top three in the standings are OnTheEngine ($435.20), Tomahawk ($419.30) and BleedsDodgerBlue ($418.80).

There is also a prize for who picks the most winners, and currently joejets leads the way with 19, followed by Tuddyboy11, who has 18, and Ramey44, who has 16.

The winner will be determined by the highest total bankroll at the end of the Challenge based on a $2 across-the-board wager on selections for three designated races on each program.

However, to continue in the game, entrants have to “survive” by finishing in-the-money with at least one of their selections each day. Failing to do so or not making selections knocks the player out of the game.

To aid in the player’s survival, a “lucky horseshoe” is given. The lucky horseshoe is a “free pass” given to all Challenge participants that allows the player to survive if he does not make selections for a race card or all three of his selections fail to hit the board.

The prize board:

The grand prize is $750 plus a Meadowlands swag package
The second-place prize is $500 plus a Meadowlands swag package
The third-place prize is $250 plus a Meadowlands swag package
Most Winners: $200 plus a Meadowlands swag package
Highest monthly bankroll: $100 (one winner in each month)

Sharpen Your Pencils: After a brief hiatus, The Meadowlands is bringing back a live money handicapping contest on Saturday (March 23).

There is no entry fee ($100 live money bankroll required) for players and the prize pool is a guaranteed $5,000, which will be fully funded by The Big M. The night of the contest, players must register/check-in at the Clubhouse Lobby by 6:20 p.m. A $100 betting card must be purchased to participate as this is a live money/wagering contest.

The contest format:

Contestants must bet a minimum of 10 Meadowlands races
$10 minimum bet per race; no maximum bet
Win, Place, Show and/or Exacta wagers only
One horse per race
Contestants keep all pari-mutuel winnings
Unlimited entries allowed per person
Players keep all pari-mutuel winnings

For complete contest rules and regulations, go here.

Oh Yes, It’s Ladies’ Night: Saturday (March 9) will be one for women in harness racing to shine, as The Meadowlands will again host an International Women’s Day-themed broadcast.

Jessica and Jenna Otten will host the in-house show on the live broadcast, and, in addition, Dawnelle Mock will be on hand for paddock and social media interviews. The night will include interviews, features and videos.

There will also be races which will feature all-female drivers. There are only a few spots left, so those wanting to drive should get in touch with race secretary Scott Warren at as soon as possible.

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