Day At The Track

Everyone still talking Meadowlands Pace Night

04:12 AM 24 Jul 2020 NZST
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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The action was pulse-pounding - both on the track and at the windows - and Dave Briggs of summarized by writing "We needed this". Both are accurate takes on what transpired Saturday on Meadowlands Pace Night at The Meadowlands.

Harness fans' thirst for a huge night of racing was quenched by the Big M's 13-race program, which included 10 stakes events, highlighted by the 44th edition of The Meadowlands Pace, where Tall Dark Stranger came back after being passed in the stretch by arch-rival Papi Rob Hanover to record his 11th career win in 12 tries for driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Nancy Takter in a Pace finish that will go down as one of the most thrilling in history.

"Honestly, I thought he was beat," said Gingras. "This horse is just so gritty. He wants to fight them off. Papi was a half-length by me."

"An incredible night for harness racing," said track Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. "Congratulations to the entire Meadowlands team on a historic card, when Meadowlands Pace Night handle topped $5 million for the first time since 2008."

Some handle highlights from the card:

  • Total handle: $5,051,261 (an increase of $1,006,958 - 25 percent - over 2019)
  • Average per race: $388,558
  • 50-cent Pick-4 pool: $191,288
  • The 20-cent Super High-Five pool featured a mandatory payout. It started with a $65,089 carryover before $133,578 in "new money" was wagered for a total of $198,667
  • Meadowlands Pace (Race 9) pool: $645,423 (an increase of $145,498 over 2019)

SMALL INVESTMENT, BIG GAIN: The Big M's popular multi-leg wagers offered generous payouts on the plays that have a base bet of 20 cents as the Late Pick-5 ($1,494), Pick-6 ($5,016), Super High-Five (Race 11, mandatory payout, $3,765) and Jackpot Super High-Five (Race 13, $4,990) all provided handsome returns.

THE POWER OF THE PEN: As Briggs wrote in his Sunday HRU space: "But in this, of all years, we needed this: an epic battle of equine fortitude and speed and strength that reminded us what we love so much about horses.

"We needed it played out on a delightful card on the biggest stage featuring more than $2.6 million in purses, betting that exceeded $5 million and a raft of equine superstars that had collective earnings north of $53 million heading into the night.

"We needed it like a kid in Grade 7 needs to burst from school when the final bell rings on the last day before summer vacation. That's exactly how it felt watching the whole delicious card unfold.

"Yes, the card, given the pandemic, was far from normal, but The Meadowlands stellar broadcasting crew, led by the two Daves - buoyant Brower and savvy Little - did their utmost to make it seem as if everything was right in the world.

"Maybe Saturday was just a momentary distraction from the misery. Likely, the euphoria won't last long. But, dammit, we needed this."

THE NEXT BIG ONE: Harness racing's trotting classic, The Hambletonian, takes place at The Meadowlands on Saturday, August 8. Post time will be noon.

Two horses who figure to be on hand are Ready For Moni and Back Of The Neck, the winners of the two Stanley Dancer Memorial divisions Saturday who are currently 1-2 in Ken Warkentin's "Road to the Hambletonian" Top 10.

To see the entire poll, go to

MARCH IN GABE'S ARMY: The Meadowlands' Dave Brower, Dave Little, Warkentin and Jessica Otten will be joined this weekend by Gabe Prewitt, harness racing's "Man of Many Hats" who calls the action at Pompano Park and Lexington's Red Mile and played a key role in Scioto Downs besting the $2-million handle mark for the first time in track history earlier this year.

The social media wiz, who is the leader of his "#senditin army", will be on hand to bolster the Big M's TV presence by sitting beside Brower Friday night and serving as co-host of the live simulcast presentation, which begins at 6:45 p.m.

Post time for the first race on Friday and Saturday is the usual 7:15 p.m.

FREE STUFF: For free past performances, go to, where race fans can access the Late 50-cent Pick-4 and Late 20-cent Jackpot Super High-Five (races 10-13) on both Friday and Saturday. In addition, on Friday, Race 6 will be offered (New Jersey Sire Stakes Final) and on Saturday, add Races 2, 4 and 6 (The Tompkins Geers).

CHECK OUT THE PICKS: For those who need to get a leg up on the action, go to to see track oddsmaker and analyst 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.

On race nights, access picks and plays from the Big M TV team at #playbigm or at @TheMeadowlands.

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

by Dave Little, for the Meadowlands


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