Monmouth Dates Request on Regulators' Agenda

Monmouth Park's official 2011 schedule could be revealed March 18.

by Tom DeMartini

The muddled picture of New Jersey racing may become somewhat clearer March 18 when the New Jersey Racing Commission considers a request from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to amend its request for 2011 live racing dates.

The public meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EDT at Freehold Raceway. Expectations are that NJSEA, which owns Monmouth but is trying to lease it for the next five years, will ask the commission to trim live racing dates considerably from the 141 mandated by state law.

Last year Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill reducing live racing dates to a 50-day “elite meet” that tripled purses and featured racing on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. A 21-day fall meet replaced the Meadowlands Thoroughbred meet.

Christie has remained adamant that the state stop funding horse racing. He hasn’t said whether he will allow the NJRC to award funds approved this year by the state legislature for purses: $15 million in 2011, $10 million in 2012, and $5 million in 2013.

The latest rumor has Monmouth running 80 days for about $400,000 a day in purses, though the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association must sign off on any reduction in dates. New Jersey THA president John Forbes said a reduction of dates was “non-negotiable” unless purses are at or near 2010 levels.

Eight applicants have submitted bids to operate Monmouth; there could be more given a deadline of March 31 to make a $25,000 deposit. Monmouth, which said stall applications are due March 16, traditionally begins it meet between mid-May and Memorial Day; a lessee would take over operations June 1, state officials have said.

Other commission agenda items include:

--Approving Atlantic City Race Course's 2011 wagering formats and officials for six consecutive days of all-turf racing April 28-May 3. Those currently are the only firm Thoroughbred racing dates in the state.

According to the just-released condition book, ACRC will offer six races a day with purses similar to those of last year: a low of $15,000 and a high of $27,000, not including a $50,000 stakes on closing day. Most races have starter allowance conditions.

--Considering a petition for rule-making received from the New Jersey THA to allow for split-sample drug testing.

--Considering approval of a proposed settlement in the matter of jockey Elvis Trujillo versus the NJRC.

--Considering a request from Freehold Raceway, a harness track, to amend its 2011 dates. Legislation passed earlier this year allows the track to reduce live racing dates if horsemen agree.