The Meadowlands ups its game with more shows on Fox in 2023
by Debbie Little
The Meadowlands is once again partnering with the New York Racing Association (NYRA) to present eight shows — two more than last year — to be shown on the Fox Sports networks as part of “America’s Day at the Races.”
“I think the shows have been very successful over the last couple of years,” NYRA’s senior director of TV broadcast operations, Eric Donovan said. “It’s great to be able to be partners with the harness industry. So, we’re just looking to expand upon that relationship and The Meadowlands has been a great partner from the start since we got into harness racing a little bit. And we’re just looking to cover some more of their marquee events and just bring harness racing some national attention.”
Jessica Otten, marketing coordinator and TV host for The Meadowlands and Fox Sports, is excited for the opportunity to once again share the sport that she loves so much with a mostly thoroughbred-centric audience.
“It was just cool to know that you were giving your insight, your thoughts and what you saw to a whole new world,” Otten said. “For us to be able to tell the story of Somebeachsomewhere and Beach Glass and the emotion that was there, to me that was so freakin’ cool.
“And then to have the world record broken [by Bulldog Hanover] on national TV was really great as well. Everybody, obviously, was not anticipating that like they were at the Red Mile, but we just knew what the horse was made of and we were just excited to showcase it.”
Otten will mark her five-year anniversary as part of The Meadowlands team in November and it’s not lost on her how far she’s come in that short period of time.
“The very first time I did an interview at The Meadowlands, I told myself this was not the right job for me,” Otten said with a laugh. “I was going to stick it out, but I wasn’t sure what in the world I was going to do. I always used to be a person who needed to have a set plan every single day for months in advance and I’ve just come to learn that you can’t do that. You have got to live life day by day.”
Donovan had nothing but praise for Otten’s work on the show, including her chemistry with his top-notch NYRA on-air team — Anthony Stabile, Acacia Clement, Laffit Pincay and Greg Wolf among others — but is also cognizant of the fact that she has taken on added responsibilities with the unexpected death of Meadowlands’ TV host Dave Brower last October.
“Jessica does an outstanding job there,” Donovan said. “She’s balancing multiple positions, especially with Dave gone now, so we don’t want to overload her too much, but she’s always game for doing whatever.”
At this point in her career, Otten is extremely appreciative of all the good fortune that has come her way both at The Meadowlands and from NYRA and Fox. And although she hasn’t had the opportunity to make it out to Saratoga or Churchill Downs yet, she has been recognized at out-of-town harness facilities because of the Fox show.
“You don’t know what opportunity is going to come about and when this opportunity came about it was great,” Otten said. “I couldn’t be more thankful for it. The people at NYRA have been so great to me. They are so great to work with. They’ve taught me a lot and they’re so easy to communicate with.
“And, obviously, Jeff [Gural] and Jason [Settlemoir] are great for giving me the opportunity to be the person that’s talking to thousands and thousands of people that have zero idea what harness racing is, or if they do know, they don’t necessarily know how to wager, they don’t know the terminology. So, it’s like you are literally being the source of information for so many different people. And it’s so cool to be trusted with that.”
The first two of the slate of eight shows — Saturday, April 29 and Friday, May 19 — will again have The Meadowlands sharing the spotlight with Churchill Downs.
“I think it just works,” Donovan said. “Churchill is a terrific product and The Meadowlands is outstanding harness racing and figuring that two of the best in the industry running at the same time, it made a natural fit to put them together and get the best of both breeds.
“We’re committed to covering the best racing in both standardbred and thoroughbred, obviously, and try to focus on some of the bigger nights, bigger days and high-level stakes races. That’s something that resonates really well I think with the Fox viewers, so it’s what we’re pushing for.”