Day At The Track

Meadowlands boasts best driver colony

04:04 AM 03 Jul 2020 NZST
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The Meadowlands, harness racing
Meadowlands drivers in action
Lisa Photo

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - During the four weeks since the end of the coronavirus shutdown at the Meadowlands, the racing has offered its usual high-octane action.

What's been different is that arguably the sport's best driver colony has managed to get even better, as with Yonkers not racing - for the time being - on Fridays and Saturdays, some of The Hilltop's best drivers have come over the George Washington Bridge to race at the mile oval just off the New Jersey Turnpike.

Jason Bartlett, Jordan Stratton, Jim Marohn Jr., Mark MacDonald, Scott Zeron, Brian Sears, Joe Bongiorno and George Brennan have been seen at the Big M recently, in addition to the track's already all-star lineup that includes Yannick Gingras, Tim Tetrick, Dave Miller, Dexter Dunn, Andy McCarthy, Corey Callahan, Marcus Miller and Andy Miller.

One could argue that not since the days of the early 2000s, when drivers John Campbell, Mike Lachance, Luc Ouellette, Ron Pierce and Cat Manzi were joined by young guns like the aforementioned Dave Miller, Gingras, Tetrick, Brennan and Sears, has the Big M colony been as talent-laden.

Derick Giwner of DRF Harness wrote about the strength of the driver colony in his column earlier this week, and spoke with Campbell, the all-time leading pilot in Big M history.

"I think the driving colony [at The Meadowlands] right now is as strong as ever," said Campbell. "I'm a firm believer that the top drivers from any era would make the adjustment and be competitive in any style of racing."

"It's a competitive field of drivers," said the six-time Hambletonian and seven-time Meadowlands Pace winner. "You see some talented drivers who are racing just two or three horses a night, when, in the past, they would have a full card."

Last week saw Big M regulars do the most winning, as McCarthy led the way with five winners. Next up with four scores apiece were Dunn and Gingras.

WELCOME BACK: For the first time since early March, fans will be permitted for live and simulcast racing - and betting on sports in the FanDuel Sportsbook - at the Meadowlands.

Patrons can come to the track on Thursday (July 2) for simulcasting before this weekend's live action. The grandstand will be open to 25 percent capacity.

For complete details and what you need to know to attend, please read the following:

FEATURED ACTION: This weekend's Big M's programs are stakes stacked.

Friday features four New Jersey Sire Stakes finals for 3-year-olds, where a total of $474,000 in purse money will be up for grabs.

On Saturday, all eyes will be on the second matchup of the year between Manchego and Atlanta - Manchego won Round 1 by a nose - in the $170,900 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial for free-for-all trotters, while Bettor's Wish, the top 3-year-old pacing colt from a year ago, headlines the Graduate Series for 4-year-olds, which will have three $50,000 divisions.

Both 13-race programs get underway at 7:15 p.m.

CIRCLE THE DATES: The track's signature event, The Meadowlands Pace, is coming up soon. Eliminations for the 3-year-old pacing classic are on July 11 and the final is on July 18.

STREAK'S ALIVE: Last weekend saw the usual strong wagering at the industry's handle leader, as $2,837,178 and $2,863,730 was bet last Friday and Saturday, respectively. Action at the races has now reached the $2.5-million mark on 15 straight race cards. No other North American harness track has wagered $2.5 million on any card during 2020.

The average play per race last weekend was $219,265 after $5,700,908 in action was taken over the 26 races.

FREE CONTEST SATURDAY: The United States Harness Writers Association will host the next free harness racing handicapping contest on Scott Alberg's Facebook page on Saturday at the Big M.

One special race will be selected from the Meadowlands' program and contestants can enter free of charge. All one must do is select the correct exacta.

To enter the contest, go to Alberg will run the contest, just as he has in the past. All winners will have their name posted after the event with their ranking.

HOW TO WATCH, HOW TO BET: For those fans who prefer to not attend the races but are still anxious to be a part of the action, they can watch the races on the Roberts Television Network ( or on the Television Games Network (TVG). To bet the races go to, or your favorite ADW (advance-deposit wagering) platform.

BIG SCORE FOR BETTORS: According to a release from the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey, Assemblyman Ron Dancer wants New Jersey's horse racing industry to keep up with the times.

His bill (A-2355) would give residents of The Garden State the ability to place wagers on horse races, even when they are out of state.

Dancer's bill passed the Assembly with a 73-0 vote.

PENTA-FABULOUS CARRYOVERS: This Friday, players have a pot of gold to shoot for in the Big M's two 20-cent Jackpot Super High-Fives. The 5th-race carryover stands at $57,438, while the 13th race has a starting point that has swelled to $69,791.

FREE STUFF: For free past performances, go to On Friday, the four NJSS Finals plus the Late 50-cent Pick-4 (race 10) will be available while on Saturday, the Late Pick-4 plus the Late 20-cent Jackpot Super High-Five (race 13) will be available.

CHECK OUT THE TEAM: For those who need to get a leg up on the action, go to to see track oddsmaker and analyst Dave Brower's selections and commentary. Go to the "handicapping" drop down and then go to "race reviews".

Additionally, track announcer Ken Warkentin's blog is available on the site and offers his picks and analysis.

This weekend's pre-game shows - which feature commentary by Brower and Dave Little - get underway at 6:45 p.m., and the team - which includes Jessica Otten - will give out best bets and value plays.

During the evening, look for Otten's interviews with horsemen from the back paddock after race replays.

TWEET THE TEAM: Stay in touch on Twitter with the Big M's Brower (@eedoogie), Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Warkentin (@kenvoiceover) and Otten (@JessicaOtten1) anytime, but especially on race night. Check in everyday for Meadowlands news and updates at those handles, as well as at @TheMeadowlands.

From the Meadowlands Media Department



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