Rainy weather and an earlier-than-normal start to the 2002 season have contributed to nearly 6% across-the-board declines in attendance and handle at Monmouth Park through the first month of racing.
"We're being compared against the best race meeting in our history," said Bruce Garland, senior vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. "Last year was an exceptional year, and while we'd like to do as well, so far we're not. But compared to other racetracks in the country, we're doing just fine."
Garland said six days of turf racing have been lost due to rain, and while weekday cards are light on entries and attendance and handle, the weekends at the Oceanport track have been strong. The track usually opens Memorial Day weekend, but raced a few weekends earlier in May.
"We had over 20,000 for Father's Day (June 16)," Garland said. "That was the best attendance anywhere, just as our total three-day Memorial Day weekend attendance was."
(According to an Arlington Park press release, the Illinois racetrack had 24,695 people in attendance on Father's Day, compared with 20,262 at Monmouth.)
Garland said that while he expects Monmouth to post stronger numbers in July and August, it will be hard to top the 2001 meet totals. "Realistically, you'd have to make up the loss thus far and be that much better in the second half of the season to have a record-setting meet," he said.
Garland also said management is trying to bring together War Emblem, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and Sarava, winner of the Belmont Stakes, for the Aug. 4, $1-million Haskell Invitational Handicap.