According to a release from the Meadowlands Racetrack, opening weekend of the winter live racing season at the 'Big M' was an unqualified success on all fronts.
On the racetrack, the new letter classification system provided the competitive racing promised upon implementation. The strong response at the entry box resulted in full fields for very nearly all of the 25 races, including an expanded 12-horse field in one race per night.
Business-wise, despite opening at the end of December on the heels of the post Christmas holiday shopping hangover, handle shot up 24 per cent on Friday over last year's starting date. Saturday's handle, though hampered by a snowstorm that kept many indoors, was also increased.
The wagering offered remarkable value to the horseplayer, with the average win payoff over the 25 races a whopping $26.80, buoyed by a pair of triple-digit winners on Friday. Favourites won at a perfectly acceptable 31.25 per cent, and there were but three odds-on favourites over both days. More prevalent were closing odds that reflected the competitiveness of the fields, with many 2-1 and 3-1 favourites at post time.
A Pick 5 carryover from Friday to Saturday resulted in a $92,195 pool for that wager on Saturday. A few head-scratchers through that sequence left just a few happy customers rewarded with a payoff of over $32,000 for a $2 bet. Friday's second race exacta returned a near-record $2 payoff of $4.451.20, and the co-featured ninth race trifecta paid nearly $5,000 for the same $2 wager.
New Meadowlands director of Racing Operations, Darin Zoccali, said, "Coming into this new racing season, we put in place a wagering format that put the bettors first. By giving the Meadowlands bettor more of what they want, they have responded by supporting our races with strong wagering.
"We had hoped the classified system of racing would produce more competitive racing, providing the bettors with more betting value and fewer short-priced favourites. Through the first two days, I am extremely pleased with the early returns."
Free admission with a free program greets each customer on Thursday and Friday. All race nights offer a pair of Pick 4 wagers, along with the nightly Pick 5. These horizontal wagers were warmly received with substantial pools that could contain a sizable wager.
In regard to the track's opening weekend, Jason M. Settlemoir, the general manager and CEO of the Meadowlands Racetrack, said the following:
"It was nice to get the racing underway this past weekend, there was a buzz here at the Meadowlands with the return of live racing from both our customers and employees. The race cards Pete Koch (race secretary) and the race office put together using the ABC classification system were outstanding.
The customers responded on both nights wagering more money at the windows than the previous dates we were up against from earlier this year.
One of our initiatives at the New Meadowlands Racetrack has been and continues to be to deliver the best harness racing in the world. I was extremely happy to hear all the positive feedback from our customers about the racing and the guest service they were greeted with throughout both nights.
There is still room to improve as the most important aspect of our business will be to deliver unparalleled customer service to our guests and horsemen. Accordingly I would like to hear feedback and suggestions from our customers and horsemen at [email protected].
I would also like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of our customers, employees and horsemen a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.”
Racing resumes on Thursday and continues with a Thursday - Friday - Saturday schedule each week with a first-race post time of 7:15 p.m. until mid-March.
(With files from the Meadowlands)