Amid Uncertainty, Meadowlands Makes Statement

New Jersey racetracks had a success weekend on and off track.

Meadowlands, which went from cash cow to undesirable according to a recent commission report authorized by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, got a boost Aug. 7 when its Hambletonian Day program produced the third-highest total handle in harness racing history.

New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority officials said all-sources wagering on the 15-race card was $8,391,600. About $9 million was wagered in 2005, and $8.8 million in 2002.

Record European wagering helped produce this year’s figure. International wagering was nearly $2.4 million, up from $1.97 million last year.  The Hambletonian was part of a seven-race package simulcast to France, Monaco, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  The first 10 races from Meadowlands were sent to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, and Malta.

On-track attendance at the northern New Jersey facility was 26,712, up 4% from 2009 and the largest since 2006, officials said. The Hambletonian, for trotters, was won by Muscle Massive.

On Aug. 6, a legislative group of Democrats held the first hearing on the governor’s plan to restructure gaming, racing, and entertainment in the state. Racing industry representatives were on hand in Atlantic City to offer their views.

Several prominent Democrats—Christie is a Republican—said they believe horse racing must be protected. The Christie report basically dismisses Meadowlands, calls for the sale of Monmouth Park, and overall suggests de-emphasis on live racing.

Monmouth, meanwhile, had another big Saturday as well. On Aug. 7 total handle on 12 races was almost $8.8 million. On-track attendance was reported at 10,247.

The following day at Monmouth, total handle was about $7.8 million, and more than 10,000 were in attendance.

Meadowlands, as part of one-year legislation that authorized the shorter, more lucrative Monmouth meet, won't offer Thoroughbred racing later this year. The 2011 racing calendar for both breeds in New Jersey remains up in the air pending legislative action in the wake of the recommendations from the Christie commission.