Harness Racing Returns To The Meadowlands This Fall

by Laura DeSiena
meadowlands harness racing

One of America’s most beloved competitions made a thrilling return to the Meadowlands on September 1, marking the rebirth of horse racing season. A pivotal part of horse racing, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment is back with the opportunity for guests to both view and make bets on live or broadcasted harness races from around the globe. Home of the annual Hambletonian Stakes, this historic track provides visitors with an abundance of newly updated premier entertainment and dining options for racing enthusiasts, sports bettors, and entertainment-seekers alike. Whether you are a first-time spectator or an experienced racing fanatic, you can anticipate an unforgettable experience filled with high-stakes competition, adrenaline-pumping action, and an inviting atmosphere suitable for the whole family. Learn more about the different types of horse racing, the rich history of the track’s origins, and how to score some serious cash in this year’s highly-anticipated harness racing season.

What is Horse Racing?


Horse racing is an equestrian sport that requires jockeys or drivers to race two or more horses over a specified distance for the sake of competition. Spectators are often given the option to bet on these competitions, which is a concept that originated from the King James I era of Great Britain in the early 1600s. 

The sport of horse racing uses different breeds of horses depending on the type of race.   A Standardbred is an American horse breed that maintains a long, extended body, and calm nature used in the sport of harness racing. Standardbred horses are classified by their unique “gait”, which refers to the way they move during a race. A Standardbred does not run and either paces or trots and is bred to not switch between these styles. The golden rule is the faster the horse, the better the class, and the greater the earnings for the winning bettor. 

Harness racing is the most popular type of horse racing, which involves a horse pulling a steering driver seated in a two-wheeled cart called a bike attached to its body. The horses and their adjacent drivers are held behind a portable starting gate, ready to explode out into their specific gating style on the one-mile dirt track.

Thoroughbreds were originally bred in England and are known for their stamina, speed, and jumping abilities. They are most commonly involved in the sport of flat racing, which is a sprinting race for younger horses that is void of obstacles on a turf or dirt track, extending to a distance between five-furlong to about two miles. They also compete in the less popular competition of jump racing, which includes two different types of longer tracks involving obstacles such as fences and hurdles.   

Meadowlands Racing History

Meadowlands Racetrack, New Jersey

Launching its racing debut in 1976, The Meadowlands Racetrack held its first harness race on September 1 of that same year and continued to expand into sprinkles of Thoroughbred racing in 1977. The original advertising campaigns featured a slogan pulled directly from “Racing with the Moon,” a big band number written by bandleader Vaughn Monroe in 1941.

This catchphrase was adopted for the advertising campaign in the inaugural year of 1977 and alludes to the concept of “post time” occurring in the evening, although today’s afternoon programs can be seen during long holiday weekends. Currently, the crisp tagline “It’s All About Being Here – The Meadowlands!” draws crowds to the newly renovated entertainment center. 

A Race Horse Legacy 

The Meadowlands Racetrack debuted its innovative approach as a night-racing venue on Thursday nights in order to steer clear of the New York competition that held its racing events on the weekends. It quickly gained popularity for its 10-furlong race, which boasted the first-ever winner, Pay Tribute at the Meadowlands Cup in 1997—trained by Ron McAnally and ridden by jockey Ángel Cordero Jr., two Hall of Famers. 

Other noted history makers from this period include Standardbred Rambling Wille who set the record at the time for the fastest mile, clocking in at 1:553. At the 2019 Graduate, Standardbred Lather Up, driven by Montrell Teague, set an astounding world record with a time of 1:46, equalling the achievement of another famed racehorse Always B at the Red Mile track in Lexington, KY.  

Additionally, The Meadowlands Racetrack has been an esteemed harness racing hub since 1981 when the venue first hosted the Hambletonian Stakes. Known as the first leg of the Trotting Triple Crown, this event marks one of the most significant milestones for a three-year-old harness racehorse to ever achieve in their lifetime. Today, the Meadowlands Racetrack hosts the Hamiltonian Stakes yearly, placing them on the map as a staple racing destination for generations to come. 

A New Look To Bet On

And they're at the gate

Today, the Meadowlands Racetrack has evolved into a premier entertainment complex, complete with a new name and major updates to two areas of the facility. No longer just a hub for bettors and racing fans, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment boasts a plethora of year-round amenities for all ages, including various indoor and outdoor dining offerings, live and broadcasted races, newly renovated private event spaces, yearly beer, wine, and food truck festivals, cooking contests, vacation raffles, and so much more. For a complete list of the new additions to the track, visit their official website here

However, there is no doubt that betting on harness races is the main attraction. To bet in a horse race, there is a particular list of steps one must take to successfully wager. Partnering with Fanduel Sportsbook, the track provides a seamless way to place wages with a self-service teller in person or on your mobile device on the Fanduel Sportsbook app/website. 

There are several different types of bets and the most common include Basic and Exotic. A Basic bet requires a $2 minimum for one horse and earnings are dealt based on where you place, which ranks as a Win, a Place, or a Show. Exotic bets require a $1 minimum and wages are placed on multiple horses at a time, thus a sought-after option for bettors who are given several chances to win big. To learn more details about the different types of betting pools and how to place a wager during a race, visit the appropriate titles under the Racing 101 tab on their official website here.   

Plan A Visit

The first harness race of the season took place on September 1.  A recurring post time of 6:20 p.m. is in place for the entire September-December season. However, the Hambletonian Stakes is the only exception, which begins at noon. A full list of entries for this race can be found here. Additionally, all races offer free general admission alongside free parking, with the exception of a $5 valet option. 

For a full list of upcoming seasonal and year-round events, visit their 2023 event calendar for experiences like the Mini Ponies @ The Track, Meadowlands Racetrack Steaks & Stakes Night, Live Turf Racing, and so much more.

About the Author/s

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Laura DeSiena is a certified Jersey Girl with a passion for music, playing the guitar, and binge-watching 90’s sitcoms. As an aspiring writer and author, she hopes to publish a book someday. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her browsing the shelves of Barnes & Noble in search of her next read.

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