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YOU WANT TO DRIVE AT THE BIG M? JOIN THE GSY!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

You watch The Meadowlands races week after week, and you can’t help but wonder: Could I be out there? 

Maybe you could. 

Just about every Friday night, a handful of “regular” folks go head-to-head sitting in the sulky at the game’s greatest track, competing for solid purses in races where wagering is similar to that of when the driver lineup has names like Dunn, Gingras and McCarthy in it. 

Welcome to the GSY Amateur Driving Series, which will have its sixth and final leg for pacers Friday (March 19) night in the first race at The Big M. The event carries a purse of $10,000. 

“We’re not as good as the pros because we don’t do it six days a week, 10 times a night. But any [GSY club member] who wants to drive at The Meadowlands has to be approved by the judges. Once they are okayed, they’re still under our scrutiny to make sure they’re not driving like an orangutan,” Club President David Yarock told Harness Racing Update. “But we put on a good show and I think it’s appreciated.” 

The betting public apparently agrees. 

Thus far in 2021, there have been 10 GSY races conducted at the mile oval, with wagering on those races totaling $2.1 million for an average per race of $211,942. Betting was especially vigorous during a 14-day stretch in February. Action totaled $285,408 on Feb. 5, $240,438 on Feb. 12 and $225,079 on Feb. 19 for a three-card average of $250,308. For some perspective, on a typical 13-race program, an average per race of a quarter-million dollars results in a night that sees a total of $3.25 million pushed through the windows. 

“We are proud to host these races,” said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “The GSY (which stands for [Jeff] Gural Settlemoir Yarock) Amateur Series races have always been hotly contested by the participants and well-received by the wagering audience at The Meadowlands. For these passionate drivers, their Meadowlands Pace takes place every Friday night.” 

So, can one really participate in the GSY if they aren’t necessarily in the harness racing business? While it’s true amateur drivers in many cases own horses, they make their living by doing something else. 

In Friday’s GSY event, here are some of the drivers and what they do in the “real world”: Matt Zuccarello works for the snack company Herr’s; Yarock is a financial insurance representative; Joe Lee is an investment advisor and also serves as the assistant equipment manager for the New York Yankees; Mark Schullstrom is an executive at Shop-Rite; Tony Beltrami is a judge in the Pennsylvania criminal court; and Bob Hechkoff is an executive headhunter. Another steady GSY performer, Todd Whitney, who isn’t racing Friday, owns his own construction company. 

The races provide a special challenge to handicappers, and those sharp enough to come up with the winners are generally rewarded for their expertise. During 2020, GSY races saw favorites win at just a 28 percent rate. Once, a winning trifecta combination – one that included drivers that had previously won multiple GSY races – returned a handsome $19,303.20. 

This year has seen more of the same, as eight of the 10 races have seen win payoffs of $6.40 or more, with four coming back $11.80 or better. The average win price has been $11.60. 

“One of the things that the bettors like is, it’s a different meal per se,” Yarock told HRU. “So, if you’ve got 12 or 13 races on the night and they’re all professionals and then you’ve got one amateur race, it’s a little bit different. Sometimes it draws more attention because it’s different.” 

The GSY not only creates opportunities for those who want to race, it creates revenue for some charitable causes. 

“The club is open to anybody who wants to get involved,” Yarock told The Meadowlands. “And revenue is produced the following ways. The 5 percent that the drivers earn, [as amateur drivers] they can’t take it, so it goes to our charity. We have a membership fee of $400 a year, and we also have fundraisers along the way. This is how we raise our money.” 

The charitable pursuit that Yarock has a special place for can be found on his website, equineoutreachfund.org. Sure, raising money is nice, but doing things to help others is even nicer. 

“During COVID-19, we have provided food and services for people, and up at my farm in The Catskills, we will be setting up a program to help people with PTSD by connecting them with retired horses as we try to rescue both.” 

THE NEW SCHEDULE: Beginning Friday (March 19), post time will be 6:20 p.m., and thus, Big M TV’s live simulcast presentation of its “Racing from the Meadowlands” pre-game show will now kickoff at 5:47 p.m. every live racing night. 

$100,000 GUARANTEED: Every night, The Meadowlands guarantees big green on both editions of its signature wager, as each 50-cent Pick-4 sports a $50,000 guaranteed pool. 

A HALF-DOZEN CHANCES: The Big M offers players six chances every night to make a score, betting on the track’s popular wagers that offer a low 15 percent takeout. They are: 

·         Race 1: 20-cent Pick-5 

·         Race 3: 20-cent Survivor Pick-7 

·         Race 6: 50-cent Pick-4 

·         Race 8: 20-cent Pick-6 

·         Race 10: 50-cent Pick-4 

·         Race 13: 10-cent Hi-5/Pentafecta 

FREE PPs: “Need a program? The Big M has you covered,” said Settlemoir. “We offer free programs every night.” The free past performances are available to anyone who goes to the track’s website, playmeadowlands.com. 

GET SOCIAL: You can always check in with the team at The Meadowlands on Twitter. 

For early changes, racing information and staff selections, go to @themeadowlands or #playbigm. 

On race nights, stay in touch with the Big M’s Dave Brower (@eedoogie), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover), Andrew Demsky (@shadesonracing) and Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1). 

CHECK OUT THE PICKS: For those who need to get a leg up on the action, go to playmeadowlands.com to see track oddsmaker and analyst Brower’s selections and commentary. Click on the “handicapping” tab and go to “race reviews”. 

Brower’s input is generally available 48 hours before every card. 

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

CAN’T MAKE IT TO THE TRACK? There are several options for those who would rather catch the action from The Big M at home. 

Racing fans can watch all the races live on the Roberts Television Network (rtn.tv). In addition, they can watch and wager by going to the Television Games Network (tvg.com) or their favorite Advance-deposit Wagering site (ADW). 

MAYHEM HAS ARRIVED: And it’s at The Meadowlands’ FanDuel Sportsbook. 

The NCAA College Basketball Tournament kicks off Thursday (March 18) at 5:10 p.m. with the first of four “play-in” games. When those contests have concluded, the field of 64 will then be set to begin play with 16 games both Friday (March 19) and Saturday (March 20) with the action set to begin both days at 12:15 p.m. 

The field, which then will be reduced to 32 teams, will resume with eight more games on both Sunday (March 21) and Monday (March 22). The first of those games will tip-off at noon each day. 

In addition to the college hoops, action will be available on professional golf’s Honda Classic, as well as a plethora of other sports, including the NBA, NHL, Premier and Champions League soccer, professional tennis and more. 

The sportsbook is open Sunday-Friday from 10 a.m.-midnight and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 a.m. The cash counter is open from 10 a.m.-11 p.m. 


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