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A Guide to Meadowlands Racetrack

If we told you there was a sports compound that was the home of two NFL franchises and a racetrack, would that be something you are interested in? If you said yes, then you will absolutely love this page. Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is the home of New York Giants and the New York Jets football teams.

Did you know it is also the site of Meadowlands Racetrack? That’s right, there is a horse racing facility right on the property, and guess what? Betting on the races is completely legal. We are going to spend the next few sections discussing how the racetrack got started, as well as some details about both the dirt and turf tracks.

There are a couple of well-known events that are hosted at Meadowlands annually, so we will make sure to spend some time covering those. Getting to the track can be confusing, so we are going to break down the simplest routes for you to travel if you are thinking about scheduling a trip. Of course, we are going to uncover the betting possibilities and how you go about placing wagers at the track.

Grab a beverage and get comfortable as we dive head first into Meadowlands Racetrack!

Overview of Meadowlands Racetrack

Year Opened
East Rutherford, New Jersey
New Meadowlands Racetrack LLC
Course Type
Harness and Thoroughbred Racing
Notable Races
Hambletonian Stakes, Meadowlands Pace
Official Website
View of Meadowlands Racetrack

Meadowlands Racetrack Opens – 1976

Yes, Thoroughbreds race at Meadowlands every fall, but let’s be honest – Meadowlands Racetrack is known for harness racing. September 1st, 1976, was a day to remember in East Rutherford because that was the day that the first-ever harness race was held at the track. More than 42,00 fans were on hand to see Rambling Willie win the debut race.

“The Big M,” as many refer to the Meadowlands Racetrack, has been the site of some of the most important harness racing events on the entire calendar. The Hambletonian Stakes, perhaps the biggest race in the sport, has been run at Meadowlands every year since its inception in 1981. We will talk much more in depth about that event in a segment below.

New Meadowlands Racetrack LLC, the company that owns the track, has done a tremendous job in updating the facilities and making sure when it comes to harness racing that Meadowlands stays at the top. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jeff Gural was brought in towards the end of 2011 to lead a project of improvements.

Not small ones, either. A full $110 million renovation to the grandstand was completed in 2013 and it can now seat more than 2,200 men and women. The efforts of Mr. Gural came at an opportune time for fans of the sport. It had been reported that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had tried to lead a brigade of “suits” that planned to tear down Meadowlands and either close it for good or construct a new track for NASCAR events.

This bogus idea fell through, and the racetrack for horses is still thriving today.

Particulars of the Racetrack

Almost all of the major harness racing tracks in the US measure one mile in length. The main dirt track at Meadowlands fits this bill to a tee. Enclosed in the outer track is a smaller turf course that is 7/8 of a mile long, or for our horse racing fanatics, seven furlongs. The width of the inner track is 80 feet, while the main track is 90 feet wide. If you are familiar with harness racing, you’ll know that these dimensions are all fairly standard.

How the Tracks Are Set up at Meadowlands Racetrack

While the proportions at Meadowlands Racetrack are quite typical for harness racing, the unique feature in the middle of their track is not. Smack dab in the center of the turf track is a lake. Look closely at the body of water, and you will see it was designed to look like the state of New Jersey.

The layout at Meadowlands is well organized, especially after the new grandstand was constructed in 2013. There’s 180,000 square feet of space that includes four levels of entertainment. Going to a horse race is already fun. The experience at Meadowlands has expanded thanks to the facility and track itself being set up so efficiently.

Two Big Races at The Big M

If you are less familiar with harness racing than you are with Thoroughbred racing, that’s totally okay. Generally, it’s the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes that get the public interested. These Triple Crown events garner the most attention because they are among the biggest events in horse racing.

Harness racing has its own Triple Crown, though. In fact, it has TWO. There’s the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Trotters and the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers.

In explanation, trotters and pacers are two distinct forms of harness racing, the difference being how the horses run.

Trotters move their legs in diagonal pairs, meaning when the front right foot moves, so does the back left foot. Pacers, on the other hand, move their front and back feet on each side in unison. Essentially, pacers move laterally, while trotters move diagonally. Pacing is more common in the world of harness racing, but both are equally exciting.

Meadowlands is the home of races in both of the Triple Crowns of harness racing. There’s the Hambletonian Stakes for trotters and the Cane Pace for pacers. The Hambletonian Stakes is the biggest race to take place at Meadowlands, but the Cane Pace does NOT come in at second. That honor goes to the Meadowlands Pace, which is the richest pacing race in the US.

Hambletonian Stakes

If you like the major events on the schedule, this one is right up your alley. The best comparison to understanding the significance of the Hambletonian Stakes to trotter racing is to think of the Kentucky Derby to Thoroughbred racing. Yes, it’s that big. The Hambletonian Stakes represents the “cream of the crop” race of the year for trotters.

They even emulate some things done at the Kentucky Derby to further draw that comparison.

For starters, the Derby is annually held on the first Saturday in August, featuring three-year-old Thoroughbreds. The Hambletonian is annually held on the first Saturday in August, and the competing horses are three-year-old Standardbreds. While the Kentucky Derby is the site of the first event in the Triple Crown for Thoroughbred racing, the Hambletonian Stakes is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Trotter Racing.

Now that you understand where this race stands, let’s look at some of the history.

The Hambletonian Stakes got started back in 1926 in Syracuse at the New York State Fair. It bounced around from the track in Lexington, Kentucky, to Good Time Park in Goshen, New York, before being run at Empire City Racetrack (now Yonkers Raceway) in the 1950s. After a lengthy stint in Du Quoin, Illinois, the event finally made its way to the Big M in 1981.

Ever since the 1981 race, the Hambletonian has been run right outside the stadium where the Giants and Jets play their NFL games. The fastest time ever recorded came in 2009 when Muscle Hill scooted around the track in 1:50.2. Back then, the purse was a shade over $1.5 million but has since been lowered to an even 1 million bucks.

Here are a couple of interesting facts related to the Hambletonian Stakes.

  • Canadian native John Campbell has won this event a record six times as a driver, most recently in 2006.
  • The 2017 winning horse Perfect Spirit was driven and trained by the same individual – Swedish-born Ake Svanstedt.

Meadowlands Pace

Now it’s time to discuss one of the most prestigious races for all three-year-old Standardbred pacers. It isn’t part of the Triple Crown for pacing horses, but it does offer the largest prize pool in United States Pacer racing. Believe it or not, the purse has actually been lowered in recent years and now sits at $738,550. The Meadowlands Pace has had $1,000,000 or more up for grabs for the majority of its existence, which started in 1977.

When On The Road Again won the 1984 edition, he won his fair share of the staggering $1,293,000 that was on the line. The point is that there are a lot of Standardbred owners who have their eyes set on the Meadowlands Pace. Trainer Brett Pelling is smiling knowing he is the only man to train four winning horses in this event, the last coming in 2005 with Rocknroll Hanover.

The Meadowlands Pace is run on the outside oval-dirt track in East Rutherford. The record for the fastest time in this one-mile “sprint” came in 2014 at the hands of He’s Watching. His time of 1:46.8 edged out the 1:47.00 time ran by Art Official in 2008.

We understand that the records set in Standardbred racing might not be as acclaimed as the ones set by the more popular Thoroughbreds. That doesn’t mean the most impressive achievements and the most significant races in Standardbred racing don’t deserve to be appreciated.

By talking about two of the most respected races for both trotters and pacers, we hope you can acknowledge that the horses pulling a “” around matter, too.

Meadowlands Racetrack – Getting There

Are you ready to check out the Meadowlands Sports Complex for yourself? Generally, in order to fully enjoy a vacation to a racetrack, you have to be a fan of horse racing. One of the cool things about planning a trip to Meadowlands is that the horse track is just a small part of what you’ll find at the complex.

The MetLife Stadium Is Part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex

We mentioned above that MetLife Stadium is located on the grounds and is the home of both the New York Jets and New York Giants NFL franchises. But what we didn’t tell you is that Meadowlands Arena is an enormous venue for concerts, festivals, and other sporting events. It might be on the other side of the freeway from the racetrack but getting from place to place is easier than it sounds. Just travel through the enclosed footbridge that connects the parking lots, and you are there with no hassle.

Clearly, finding things to do at this mega sporting and entertainment compound won’t be an issue. So how do you get there? Where is East Rutherford, New Jersey?

Well, have you heard of New York City – you know, the Big Apple? The Theater District in Times Square in the center of Manhattan is only 10 miles away. If you have to fly in, John F. Kennedy International Airport is only about 25 miles away, but expect to deal with some heavy traffic. LaGuardia Airport in Queens is only about 18 or 19 miles from Meadowlands, but again, expect to sit in some bumper to bumper.

The airport in Newark, New Jersey, is 15 miles away, and the route will be much less congested. If you can find a flight to Newark Liberty, try to do that. Of course, the best option is to fly straight into Teterboro Airport, located just a couple miles away from Meadowlands Racetrack. That is, if you have the ability to hop on a private jet – unfortunately, most of us don’t!

We want to remind you that if you are traveling to Meadowlands for a huge event like a football game at MetLife, you can take advantage of the Meadowlands Rail Line that opened in 2009. The Hoboken Terminal is a major transportation hub in the northeast and now can transport passengers to the Meadowlands Sports Complex in under 25 minutes. It also connects with the Secaucus Junction in Secaucus, New Jersey, another main transportation hub in the area.

There is plenty going on at Meadowlands and more than enough ways to get there. All you have to do is plan the trip!

Betting the Horses at Meadowlands Racetrack

Now for the fun part, the part that actually involves making some money. Anyone who is a fan of horse racing has surely at least contemplated making a wager before. Maybe you aren’t even a fan of horse racing but can’t get enough of betting sports online. Either way, we are going to give you what you need.

Betting races at Meadowlands online is a great way to go. Obviously, not everyone has the liberty of just heading to East Rutherford to check out a harness racing event. The best online sites in the industry will have more than enough betting options available next time the Meadowlands Pace or the Hambletonian Stakes are on the horizon.


In the event you do get to make it to the racetrack, boy, are you in for a treat. Hopefully you enjoy options, because that’s exactly what you get when it comes to betting the races at Meadowlands. If you are old-fashioned and appreciate walking up to a betting window and talking to an attendant, that is most definitely in the cards.

Prefer to place a wager at one of the many self-service betting windows? That’s about as easy as can be. The truth is, betting on your tablet or mobile device is probably even easier than the self-service windows. The cool thing is that is available as well! No matter how you plan on betting the race, there is an easy and logical way to do it.

to find out more details on how to make some money when you get to Meadowlands.

The Major Takeaway

We were pretty excited to write about a racetrack that’s just 10 miles from New York City and shares a home with two NFL teams. Meadowlands Racetrack is unlike any other horse racing venue in the United States.

Harness racing may not be as big as Thoroughbred racing. That, we understand. However, when it comes to this form of racing, the facilities don’t get much more esteemed than The Big M. We talked about how it got started back in 1976, and we told you about the specifics of the racecourse. The lake in the center makes it as unique of a racetrack as we can think of anywhere in North America.

One of the biggest races in all of trotter racing and all of pacing racing are both annually run at Meadowlands. We uncovered what makes those events so meaningful, as well as touched on some of the most impressive records set at each event.

Talking so much about Meadowlands got us thinking we ought to tell you folks how to get there and what else you can do around the area. Naturally, betting is a huge part of that. That is why we dedicated time to writing a section about placing wagers at the track.

If you aren’t convinced that Meadowlands Racetrack is an exciting place with a lot to offer, you should rethink what you consider to be fun. We promise if you head to the historic grounds in East Rutherford, you won’t be disappointed.