Monmouth Park’s 2010 "elite summer meet" concluded Sept. 6 with triple-digit gains in average mutuel handle and double-digit gains in average attendance and average field size. The 49-day meet, which began May 22 as an experiment in reduced racing days, offered the highest daily purses in the nation ($797,079), resulting in larger fields of better-quality horses, officials reported. (The 50th day of the meet will be run on Sept. 18 as part of the fall meet).
Racing just three days a week (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, plus three holiday Mondays), the 2010 meet surpassed last year’s 82-day season (through Labor Day 2009) in total betting and on-track wagering.
“We were cautiously optimistic that this kind of boutique meeting would work,” said Dennis Robinson, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, “but I don’t think any of us expected a blockbuster like this. The fans and the horsemen made this a meeting to remember.”
Total betting at Monmouth hit $389,550,798, an 87 percent increase over last year’s $208,390,601. On-track handle totaled $37,558,779 for 49 days this year, topping last season’s $35,050,572 for 82 days.
Average daily handle of $7,950,016 represented a 213 percent gain over last year. Average on-track handle of $766,506 was 79 percent higher than last year’s average of $427,446. Average attendance this year hit 10,651, a rise of 47 percent over last year.
Field size, considered a key ingredient in attracting increased wagering, jumped 25 percent this year, as 2010 fields averaged 9.28 runners per race compared to 7.44 last year.
“The dramatic increase in field size is one of the most critical factors in our increased business,” Robinson said. “The fans responded enthusiastically to the larger fields the way we hoped they would.”
Day-to-day comparisons of this year’s racing schedule to last year’s business on the comparable days (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays) show much-improved figures.
Monmouth’s total average daily handle of $7,950,016 represented a 114 percent jump over the similar days last year. Average on-track handle of $766,506 this year increased 42 percent over last year. Average on-track attendance of 10,651 gained 16 percent over last year.
Once again, Haskell Day provided the biggest afternoon of the meet. A crowd of 40,904 helped set an all-time betting record for the IZOD Haskell Invitational (gr. I), with $4,463,736 wagered on the race, which was won by Lookin at Lucky.
Total handle for the 14-race Haskell Day card hit $17,442,170, the second highest ever for a non-Breeders’ Cup program and just off the 2008 mark of $17,642,955 when $4,257,409 was bet on the Haskell.
The race for leading trainer ended in a three-way tie as Bruce Alexander, Todd Pletcher, and Steve Asmussen each captured 20 races.
Paco Lopez, with 69 victories, held off a fast closing Elvis Trujillo (67 wins) to take his first Monmouth title.
George and Lori Hall’s horses, trained by Kelly Breen, won 13 races at the meet to earn them the owner's title.