The consolidation of Thoroughbred racing at Monmouth Park this year led to a $123 million increase in total pari-mutuel handle despite 50% fewer racing dates, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority officials said Nov. 21.
Monmouth completed its 22-day late summer/early fall meet Nov. 21 with average daily handle of $3,841,848. The comparable 47-day meet at Meadowlands in 2009 produced average daily handle of $1,342,884, the NJSEA said.
All Thoroughbred racing was held at Monmouth in 2010 as part of an experiment in which horsemen agreed to race 71 days instead of 141 under legislation passed for 2010 only. Monmouth’s 50-day “Elite Summer Meet” presented by IZOD offered average daily purses of almost $800,000 and generated a 213% increase in total average daily handle, a 79% increase in ontrack handle, a 47% increase in attendance, and a 25% hike in field size, officials said.
A commission under Republican Gov. Chris Christie said this year’s Monmouth meet will lose about $6 million, though it offered no specifics on how the figure was derived. The commission has recommended the sale of Monmouth by the state and closure of Meadowlands.
In a statement, NJSEA chief executive officer Dennis Robinson offered a different view.
“It’s clear that concentrating Thoroughbred racing at Monmouth Park proved a very wise investment,” Robinson said. “Not only did we realize dramatic gains in all categories, we substantially reduced our operating costs by shifting all Thoroughbred racing to Monmouth.”
According to NJSEA figures, total Thoroughbred handle on Monmouth races was $477,375.167 this year for 71 days versus $354,867,156 for 141 days at Monmouth and Meadowlands in 2009. Ontrack handle was down, from $44,153,896 this year versus $44,623,515 last year.
The Monmouth signal clearly made an impact in the simulcast market, according to the figures.
“While in some instances it’s difficult to compare the results of 2009 to 2010, one thing is certain—less proved to be more,” Robinson said. “Our racing schedule, along with the quality of our product, resonated with racing fans from coast to coast. I hope it proves to be the cornerstone of a new racing model.”
The Christie commission has recommended only 59 Thoroughbred dates at Monmouth for 2011, as well as consolidation of Thoroughbred and harness racing at Monmouth upon closure of Meadowlands. Horsemen’s groups representing both breeds have said the plan is a non-starter, and they have threatened litigation.