Monmouth Park will begin its 2014 meet May 10 with a new race and sports bar and additions to its picnic and paddock areas.
The opening-day program attracted 121 entries for the 12 races. Topping the day’s card is the $75,000 Decathlon Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward, which features a full field of 11. Included is graded stakes winner Candyman E and the likely favorite, Ribo Bobo, who won 10 of 11 starts last year and is 2-for-3 in 2014.
A six-furlong dash, the Decathlon is the first of this year’s stakes events, which includes 17 graded stakes.
Monmouth generally will race three days a week (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) through August, and two days a week (Saturdays and Sundays) in September. The meet ends Sept. 28, but Thoroughbred turf racing will be at New Meadowlands four days in September and 10 days in October.
Track officials said ground will be broken this summer on a 7,500 concert arena adjacent to the picnic area. It is scheduled to open in 2015.
"It's just yet another crowd-pleasing entertainment destination to complement the racetrack," said Dennis Drazin, adviser to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and Darby Development, operators of Monmouth. "We are continuing with a grand plan to make Monmouth Park a multi-faceted entertainment destination. This concert arena, coupled with plans for a new restaurant, is another step toward our long-term goals."
The William Hill Race & Sports Bar will be ready for opening day. Located on the first floor of the grandstand, the state-of-the-art room features more than 100 flat screen HD televisions, a 40-foot granite top bar, and contest kiosks where fans can make free sports plays for prizes.
"When sports wagering comes to New Jersey, we will be ready on day one," Drazin said. "We're proud to have partnered with one of the world's leaders in sports betting and look forward to a long partnership that proves beneficial to both of us, and more importantly to the horsemen and people of New Jersey."
The "Frozen Furlong" drink stand has been added to the picnic area, and there is a new Tex-Mex concession stand near the paddock. Meanwhile, a new off-track wagering facility in Hillsborough, N.J., is scheduled to open in a few months.
"We believe this is just the tip of the iceberg," Drazin said. "With the likelihood of exchange wagering coming this summer, and other new revenue streams that we continue to bring to Oceanport, we are confident in a strong and secure future for Monmouth Park."
As always, the centerpiece of Monmouth’s summer season will be the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I), which has its 47th running July 27. The track's grade I turf race, the $500,000 United Nations Stakes, will be July 6.