Monmouth Adjusts Purse Structure for Fall

Monmouth Park will offer higher-than-expected purses this fall.

Monmouth Park’s post-Labor Day meet will offer higher average daily purses than originally projected, officials at the New Jersey racetrack said Aug. 24.

During the meet—Sept. 11-Nov. 21 with racing Saturdays and Sundays—purses will average $375,000 a day, up from the $250,000-$300,000 announced earlier this year. In the Northeast region, Monmouth purses will be the second-highest behind Belmont Park in New York during the fall.

“It’s always a good thing when you have more money to offer,” Monmouth vice president and general manager Robert Kulina said in a statement. “The amount of money distributed at the ‘Elite Summer Meet’ versus the amount of money available has created a surplus for the fall. It’s good news for Monmouth Park, the horsemen, and racing fans.”

Monmouth is nearing the end of a 50-day meet at which purses were greatly increased via a total reduction of about 70 live Thoroughbred racing days this year in New Jersey. Through Aug. 22 (42 days), purses have averaged $797,929 a day, by far the highest in the country.

Purses this year at Monmouth benefit from about $20 million in the final year of a supplement paid by casinos in exchange for the horse racing industry not pursuing alternative gaming. That playing field changes next year.

The meet was billed as the $1-million-a-day meet. In July, Kulina told The Blood-Horse that figure includes a per-start fee of $1,500 horse, payments to breeders and a workers’ compensation program, and money for the local horsemen’s group. When those funds are deducted, daily overnight purses are about on target.

Through Aug. 22 Monmouth paid $33.77 million in purses, about $6.5 million for New Jersey-bred runners, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Ontrack handle thus far is up 43%, all-sources handle up 115%, and ontrack attendance had increased 13% with racing three days a week instead of the traditional five days per week.

In 2009 purses averaged $332,000 a day at Monmouth and $258,000 a day at Meadowlands. There will be no Thoroughbred racing at Meadowlands this year.

Currently, maiden special weight purses at Monmouth are $75,000. For the upcoming 21-day meet, they will fall to $50,000, but last fall at Meadowlands, the same races went for $38,000.

Monmouth also has raised the purses of a host of stakes for the post-Labor Day meet from $60,000 to $75,000, according to the new condition book.

“By offering more than expected this fall, we’re hoping the momentum we’ve built this summer will continue and add to an already record-breaking year for racing in the Garden State,” Kulina said.

At Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack in neighboring Pennsylvania, purses through 123 days of racing have averaged $279,470 a day for a total of $34.41 million, according to TJCIS statistics. That figure will hold when the track reopens Aug. 30 after a month-long break, but increases are planned for special days in September and October.

On Labor Day, for instance, a maiden special weight purse will be $68,000 rather than the usual $45,000; on Sept. 18, the purse will increase to $90,000, an open $5,000 claimer will go for $50,000, and $12,500 claiming maidens will compete for $44,000.

The increases are tied to various big-racing days for Pennsylvania-bred runners and local horse owners, as well as the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) program Sept. 28.