New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Dec. 12 the state’s horsemen are responsible for a last-minute breakdown in plans for developer Morris Bailey to assume operation of Monmouth Park.
During a press conference to announce cabinet changes, Christie called the state’s Thoroughbred horsemen “completely untrustworthy” and warned that they have seven days to improve their offer to save Thoroughbred racing in the state, according to NJBiz.com.
The horsemen and Bailey were scheduled to sign off on the Monmouth deal Dec. 2 but it did not transpire because the state attorney general’s office was “uncomfortable” with some aspects of the agreement. The state is in the process of privatizing Monmouth and Meadowlands, with Bailey to lease Monmouth for Thoroughbred racing and Jeff Gural to lease Meadowlands, which would conduct Standardbred racing.
In exchange for not receiving as many live racing dates as they initially wanted, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association would operate some Thoroughbred racing at Monmouth using the Thoroughbred dates formerly held at Meadowlands.
As a result of the failure to complete the deal, Bailey reportedly was ready to back out of his plans to run Monmouth.
“The problem is that the Thoroughbred horsemen are completely untrustworthy,” NJBiz quoted Christie, who said the state had a handshake deal with the horsemen at 12:45 a.m. Dec. 6, only to have the horsemen ask for a $5 million subsidy eight hours later.
Christie said Bailey walked away from talks to operate Monmouth because of the horsemen’s lack of trust. Christie said he was still willing to strike a compromise, pointing to the state’s deal with Jeffrey Gural to operate Standardbred racing at Meadowlands.
“We’ve had none of these problems with Jeff Gural and the Standardbred horsemen that we’ve had with the Thoroughbred horsemen,” Christie said. “If they don’t come to us in the next week with a deal that works and stops extorting the taxpayers for millions of dollars in subsidies to their industry, then we’re not going to have a deal and we won’t have a horse racing industry in the state anymore.”
Efforts to reach New Jersey THA president John Forbes were unsuccessful. Forbes, according to published reports, indicated the horsemen and Bailey were working together on a deal to operate Monmouth.