Monmouth Park

Monmouth Park

Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Officials See Monmouth Meet as Starting Point

Attendance was up but pari-mutuel handle down at the New Jersey track this year.

Monmouth Park registered gains in average daily attendance but declines in pari-mutuel handle for its 65-day meet, officials said Oct. 7, closing day of the meet.

It was the first meet run under the auspices of Darby Development and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. Monmouth is being leased from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for at least five years.

"Based on what we knew coming into this meet, we anticipated a drop in our handle numbers," said Dennis Drazin, an adviser to the lessees and a Thoroughbred owner and breeder in New Jersey. "This was our first meet at the helm, and it should provide a good starting point to build on in the future."

Average daily attendance was 8,403, up 10.9% from 7,574 in 2011, when the meet spanned 77 days. On-track wagering on live racing totaled $30,617,780 for an average of $471,043, down 4% from last year. Average daily all-sources handle was $4,060,335, down 13.5% from $4,695,424 last year.

"Given all the uncertainty that surrounded this meet from the beginning, I'm happy we were able to conduct a 2012 racing season," Drazin said. "Back in April it didn't look like there would be a 2012 Monmouth meet, and our ability to maintain the purse levels we did and increase the number of visitors to the racetrack, I would say our season was a success."

Purses at Monmouth this year averaged $366,047 per day, down from $430,672 in 2011, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Purses totaled $33,161,736 for 77 days last year versus $23,793,206 for 65 days this year.

Field size averaged 7.66 horses per race, down slightly from 7.76 in 2011, according to TJCIS.

Darby Development added some features at the track this year, including four large-screen video boards and a miniature golf complex that opened in early October. Drazin has said the idea is to turn Monmouth into an "entertainment destination," given its location along the Jersey Shore.

Drazin also noted that "expanded gaming opportunities are one of the cornerstones of Monmouth's future.

Meanwhile, live Thoroughbred racing in New Jersey moves to Meadowlands beginning Oct. 12 for a short all-turf meet. There will be eight programs spread over Friday and Saturday afternoons through Nov. 3.

Meadowlands, primarily a harness track, is being leased from the NJSEA by Jeff Gural and partners.