Big M Back With Kindergarten Stakes

Harness racing at Meadowlands Racetrack
Published: October 19, 2023 02:08 pm EDT

Live harness racing at The Meadowlands has been on hiatus for the last five weeks, but the action returns to the New Jersey oval on Friday, Oct. 20 and will continue every Friday and Saturday through the end of 2023 with a first-race post time of 6:20 p.m.

Actually, there will be two changes in the schedule. There will be no live racing on Friday, Nov. 24, while there will be live action on Thursday, Dec. 7.

The Kindergarten Series for two-year-olds of each sex and gait is the marquee event during opening weekend with seven $20,000 leg four dashes to be contested on the Friday program.

The Friday card will also have a brand new multi-leg puzzle with a low 15 per cent takeout as the 20-cent Pick-8 makes its debut, giving the Big M faithful yet another opportunity to make a big score while keeping investments economical given the wager’s low base bet. In addition, there will be minor tweaks to the High-5 (or Pentafecta, if you prefer).

“The Meadowlands welcomes horseplayers from around the world to Opening Night,” said Jason Settlemoir, Meadowlands' Chief Operating Officer and General Manager. “The Big M will offer some new betting opportunities this fall as we try to make the wagering menu as exciting as possible for our players. There are now eight wagers with a 15 per cent takeout every night. Low takeouts and low minimums help our horseplayers stay in action. The Meadowlands offers the biggest pools in Standardbred racing, which will provide players with many opportunities every night to make a score.”

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
  • Race 7: 20-cent High-5 (the minimum used to be 10 cents)
  • Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6
  • Race 10: 50-cent Pick-4
  • Race 11: 20-cent High-5 (Race 11 instead of the final race of the night)

The Meadowlands has reported that its betting pools are by far the biggest in the sport. Thus far in 2023, a total of $214,514,733 has been bet on Big M races, good for a nightly average of $3,201,712. The $3-million barrier gets busted on a regular basis at the mile oval, as, after 67 race cards this year, at least $3 million has been put in play on 50 occasions.

All wagering figures represent “Jeff Gural-Era” bests. Gural, the track’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, began operating the mile oval in December of 2011.

“The Meadowlands has a plethora of events lined up for the fall meeting,” said Settlemoir, Gural’s right-hand man for horse racing since 2006.

Settlemoir oversaw the building of Tioga Downs, brought Vernon Downs back from bankruptcy, and since taking over at The Big M in 2012, guided the transition from the old grandstand to the new facility.

“Horses, sports and exciting events will make The Big M one of the most exciting destinations in the Metropolitan area. Action at The Meadowlands is truly the attraction.

“2023 has been one of our greatest seasons. The Championship Meet lived up to all the hype. One of our biggest Meadowlands Pace nights combined with one of the biggest Hambletonian days of all time, when total handle was just under $9 million.”

Leg five of the Kindergarten takes place on Friday, Oct. 27. Then, in November, the stakes volume dial gets turned up to 11.

The ball starts rolling on Saturday, Nov. 4 when an estimated $1 million will be up for grabs in the Kindergarten finals and consolations. Next up, on Saturday, Nov. 11, a total of $240,000 (est.) will be offered on the NJ Home Grown and NJ Garden State.

After eliminations (if necessary) are contested on Saturday, Nov. 18, the “Fall Final Four” and FanDuel Championships will make up a can’t miss, date-circling-worthy night of competition on Saturday, Nov. 25 when an estimated $2.65 million comprise what is the third-biggest night of the Big M calendar year after Hambletonian Day and Meadowlands Pace Night.

The Fall Final Four is made up of the Governor’s Cup (two-year-old colt and gelding pace), Three Diamonds (two-year-old filyl pace), Valley Victory (two-year-old colt and gelding trot) and Goldsmith Maid (two-year-old filly trot). The FanDuel four-pack comprises the Open Pace, Open Trot, Open Mare Pace and Open Mare Trot. All eight events figure to have great impact when ballots are cast at year’s end for both divisional honours and Horse of the Year.

In addition to great live action, the simulcast areas at The Meadowlands are the places to be when major events – both Thoroughbred or Standardbred – take to the track.

Free past performances for every race of every Meadowlands card are available by going to Race reviews and selections by The Meadowlands’ morning-line odds maker and program analyst James Witherite are available 48 hours before a given race card. To access, simply go to the Big M website, go to the “handicapping” tab, then click “race reviews.”

On Saturday, Oct. 21, head to the Big M’s second-floor lounge for a spectacular five-course meal where each dish will be paired with a chef-selected wine. The cost is $74.95 per person (plus tax and gratuity). Call 201-THE-BIGM for reservations. Diners must be 21 or older to attend.

Also on Saturday, Oct. 21, come and see champion Islam Makhachev take on Alexander Volkanovski for the 155-pound title at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi. Catch the fight in The Big M’s newly redesigned Gallery. Doors open at noon with the fight slated for 2 p.m.

Do you like the music of Billy Joel and Elton John? Then come out to the track for the “River of Dreams,” The Billy Joel/American Elton seven-piece Tribute Show on Saturday, Oct. 28. It will prove to be a true tribute in sound and appearance. It will be hard to tell them apart from the real thing! The show begins at 10 p.m. Tickets are priced at just $35. For further information and to purchase tickets, go to

On Sunday, Oct. 29, head to The Meadowlands for ESPN New York’s “The Battle for New York” New York Game Day live remote from 7-11 a.m. Amani Toomer, Anita Marks and Mike Tannenbaum will be onsite hosting in the second-floor Lounge.

It’s time once again for one of the most popular promotions The Meadowlands offers, as on Saturday, Nov. 4, all chili and salsa chefs who think they have the right stuff can enter the track’s “Chili and Salsa Cook-Off.” So, you’re not a chef? No problem. Free samples will be given for the People’s Choice vote following the 8 p.m. turn-in. The event takes place in the Food Court and outdoor East Apron.

(With files from The Meadowlands)

Have something to say about this? Log in or create an account to post a comment.