Report: Horsemen Intend to Operate Monmouth

The New Jersey THA said it hopes to strike a deal with the NJSEA as soon as possible.

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has submitted a plan to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to lease Monmouth Park beginning this year.

The New Jersey THA wants to race roughly the same schedule as last year—71 days, 51 of them from late May through Labor Day on a three-day-a-week schedule, the Asbury Park Press reported Feb. 7. Such a plan would allow Monmouth to maintain purses at about $400,000 a day.

New Jersey THA president John Forbes, who was instrumental in implementing shorter, richer meets at Monmouth beginning in 2010, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment the afternoon of Feb. 7. He did confirm the horsemen’s plan to the Press.

The stakes schedule, traditionally highlighted by the $1 million Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I), has not been finalized.

When the deal between the NJSEA and prospective lessee Morris Bailey collapsed in early December, the state continued operating Monmouth with a goal of having it privately operated in time for the 2012 meet. But without an operator and legislative approval for racing dates, the meet would most likely be run under statutory provisions that mandate 141 racing days for far less purse money per day.

A 141-day meet with average daily purses of about $175,000 most likely would lead to a gutting of the stakes schedule, including the Haskell.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Dec. 20, 2011, officially announced separate deals for the continuation of live racing at Monmouth and Meadowlands in 2012. The state signed off on a 30-year lease of Meadowlands by Jeff Gural and said it intended to find an operator for Monmouth.

“Our transition to independent, privately operated horse racing facilities will continue in 2012, and I am as optimistic as ever that Monmouth Park will maintain its legacy as a premier venue for Thoroughbred horse racing fans for years to come,” Christie said at the time.

Full-card simulcasts have continued at Monmouth in the interim.

Meadowlands management said January, the first month of harness racing under private ownership, produced a 24% increase in live pari-mutuel handle from the same period last year. Ontrack wagering on live and simulcast races was up 9% in January 2012 compared with January 2011.

Attendance for live racing was up almost 18%, officials said.

Though the specifics of the Monmouth racing schedule for 2012 are still up in the air, Atlantic City Race Course will kick off the New Jersey Thoroughbred racing season with six days of all turf racing this spring. The Atlantic County track was awarded April 27-29 and May 1-3 by the New Jersey Racing Commission.

Under that schedule Greenwood Racing-owned Atlantic City will race Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; be dark Monday; and then race Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.