EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – To say “eventful” describes what transpired during the night of the 45th edition of The Meadowlands Pace at The Meadowlands is an understatement of epic proportion.
The exceptional Saturday saw 11 stakes races conducted on a stormy, sultry summer night when some nearby Bergen County municipalities got 2½ inches of rain. There was also a disqualification in the track’s signature event, a live two-hour presentation on a nationwide sports network and a visit from the Governor of the Garden State. It made for an evening that won’t soon be forgotten.
“All of us at The Meadowlands are very grateful to Gov. [Phil] Murphy and everybody at Fox Sports 2,” said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “The Governor was nice enough to do an interview on the Fox Sports 2 presentation, which was put together brilliantly by the TV team at The New York Racing Association. We hope to work with NYRA and get more exposure for harness racing in the future. NYRA is simply first class all the way.” (To see Gabe Prewitt’s entire interview with Gov. Murphy, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFylMzKZFEc)
The four races that were televised live on Fox Sports 2 provided great examples of how competitive – and unpredictable – high-stakes harness races can be. J K First Lady stayed close to the pace before sprinting home in :26.3 to take the Dorothy Haughton Memorial. The Nancy Takter trainee paid $6.60 to win as the second choice, but even more appealing to bettors, she topped a $756.20 trifecta. Her winning time of 1:47.4 was the fastest in the history of the sport for a 4-year-old pacing mare.
The connections of Allywag Hanover decided against putting their hard-hitting 4-year-old in the Tattersalls Summer Sale and are no doubt glad about that, as the Brett Pelling trainee was weaved through the field by Todd McCarthy late to take the William Haughton Memorial as the 5-1 fifth choice in the betting. His time of 1:47.1 equaled the fastest of the year in the game.
Beads proved to be anything but a one-trick speed pony, scoring from off the pace from post 10 (in a bulky field of 12) in the 1 1/8-miles E.T. Gerry Jr. Hambletonian Maturity at odds of 8-1, a remarkable price given the fact that the Per Engblom student had been the betting favorite in four straight starts coming in.
Finally, the crazy happened: The first disqualification of a horse who crossed the finish line first in the history of The Pace. After 14-1 shot Charlie May was DQ'd, the Dr. Ian Moore-trained Lawless Shadow, sent off as the 5-1 fourth choice, was placed first, giving driver Mark MacDonald and Moore their first Pace scores.
So what did the races that made up the “Fox Sports Pick 4” produce?
“It was a throwback to those early Meadowlands years of the 1970s and 80s,” said Settlemoir. “The vision of racing according to the late, great Joe DeFrank, the legendary race secretary whose memory is being honored this year during our Championship Meeting. “When a driver pulls, you must advance. Without complimentary holes being available, the result is a contentious early pace and fast early fractions, which make inside posts and early speed less advantageous. This makes it possible for horses to close ground in the stretch. Races with more potential contenders create potentially bigger payouts, which creates more interest, which creates more handle.”
No winning favorites, no races where the last half was faster than the first, no horses winning in wire-to-wire fashion and no horses winning from an inside post produced a 50-cent Pick-4 pool that totaled $135,859 and yielded a handsome payoff of $1,223.45.
“The greatest barometer to how contentious the racing was on the Fox Sports 2 telecast,” said Settlemoir, “was in races six through nine [the dashes that comprised the Pick-4]. There were 15 horses that were parked the mile, never seeing the rail. An average of almost four per race.”
The rains might have been torrential, but so was the action, as the wagering bucket filled up and then some.
Total handle for the 14-race program was $4,503,213, marking the second time that Pace Night wagering eclipsed the $4.5-million mark in the last 13 years. The Pace itself took in $677,992 of play, the most action on the track’s signature event in a decade.
PROLIFIC PAYOFFS: With NYRA TV providing the vehicle for The Pace to be telecast live, it was a natural to hook up the top thoroughbred track in the country, Saratoga, with the No. 1 harness venue to create the “Cross Country Pick 5”. Only one favorite scored during the sequence, setting up a nice payout. · Saratoga 9th: Wit ($4.20) · Saratoga 10th: Althiqa ($9.80) · Meadowlands 7th: Allywag Hanover ($12.40) · Meadowlands 8th: Beads ($19.00) · Meadowlands 9th: Lawless Shadow ($12.40)
The 50-cent Cross Country Pick 5 returned $7,104.75, creating the wager’s fourth-highest payoff of the year.
Other payoffs on The Pace Night card worth noting were the 20-cent Pick-6, which returned $5,913.48, and the 20-cent Pick-7, where one shrewd handicapper held the only ticket with six winners and cashed in for $7,441.92.
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 playmeadowlands.com. 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 playmeadowlands.com 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.
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
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 rtn.tv 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 (tvg.com) or your favorite Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) site.
A $100,000 PROMISE: The best bet in all of harness racing, The Big M’s 50-cent Pick-4, offers a $50,000 guaranteed pool both times the wager is offered nightly. The Early P4 gets underway in the sixth race, while the Late P4 kicks off in the 10th.
WHAT’S TO COME? The Meadowlands’ Championship Meeting is dwindling down to a precious few racing programs with just six cards remaining.
Racing will be conducted on the usual Friday and Saturday basis until the end of the meeting. Post time is 6:20 p.m. with one exception, Hambletonian Day (August 7), when the first race heads to the gate at noon.
This Saturday, track goers between the ages of 18 and 30 can enter a free handicapping contest where the total prize pool is $5,000. Players must check-in and register at the Backyard BBQ & Grill by 6:20 p.m. and complete the contest form prior to race two. Each contestant will receive a $15 food voucher, $10 betting voucher and a free program for the races.
Also on Saturday, 10 randomly chosen participants will go cob-to-cob in the track’s “Corntastic” eating contest for a chance to win $500. There will also be a corn husking competition. Sign up for both at the promotions table.
BET YOUR FAVORITE MVP: Shohei Otani, the star pitcher and hitter for the Los Angeles Angels, is the current -290 favorite to take home the trophy as the American League Most Valuable Player, and the place to get action on futures and, of course, live games, is the FanDuel Sportsbook at The Meadowlands.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the second choice at +210 while Xander Bogaerts is next at +4000. What about teams to win the World Series? The Los Angeles Dodgers are favored at +390 to win a second consecutive championship. They are followed by the Houston Astros (+450) and Chicago White Sox (+700). The New York Mets and San Diego Padres round out the top five, as both are currently +950.
Sports betting enthusiasts can get in on all the action at “The Book” Sunday-Friday from 10 a.m.-midnight and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 a.m. The cash counter is open from 10 a.m.-11 p.m.