Turf racing attracts full fields at Atlantic City.

Turf racing attracts full fields at Atlantic City.

Blood-Horse Photo

All-Turf Handle Quadruples at Atlantic City

Monmouth opens on the heels of a successful Atlantic City meet.

The New Jersey racing scene shifts to Monmouth Park May 9 after kicking off with a six-day Atlantic City Race Course meet at which total handle quadrupled.

Atlantic City raced six days (Thursdays and Fridays) from April 16-May 1, with all 37 races on the grass. For the first time in many years, the track exported its signal, but some betting outlets and account wagering providers missed the first several days of the meet.

In all, $3,259,953 was wagered on Atlantic City races, up from $809,932 for six days last year, when only on-track betting was available, according to figures from the track’s official charts. Both years, six races were offered each of the first five days, and seven on the final day.

With many Mid-Atlantic tracks taking the signal, total on-track handle on live races declined slightly to $771,243 (a daily average of $128,540). The figure doesn’t include handle from full-card simulcasts offered at Atlantic City.

Total off-track handle on live racing was $2,488,710 (a daily average of $414,785). The track’s biggest day was April 30, when off-track handle was $800,709, and total handle $921,841. TVG showed all or stretch calls of the track’s races the last two days of the meet.

Despite having a yielding turf course the first week of the meet, field size increased to 10.46 horses per race, up from 9.92 in 2007, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Purses averaged $120,332 this year, down from $133,283 last year.

With no turnstiles, reported attendance is a loose figure. The average was 4,278 for racing programs that began at 3:30 p.m. EDT each day.

The New Jersey Racing Commission has urged Atlantic City, owned by Pennsylvania-based Greenwood Racing, to add live racing days moving forward. The NJRC last year awarded the track 20 days, but its schedule was reduced in exchange for not pursuing part of a three-year, $90-million casino purse subsidy that expires in 2010.

Monmouth, meanwhile, has increased stakes purses 12% for its season, which runs through Sept. 27. The meet as usual is highlighted by the $1-million Haskell Invitational for 3-year-olds Aug. 2.

Monmouth will offer about $4.7 million in stakes in 2009. As for overnight races, maiden special weight events will go for $38,000, with an entry-level allowance race at $41,000. For races restricted to New Jersey-bred horses, those purses will be $47,000 and $51,000, respectively.

The bottom purse in the first condition book is $10,000 for $10,000 maiden claimers. An open $5,000 claiming race goes for $18,000.

Monmouth, where purses could average about $300,000 a day, reported a slight increase in total handle last year.

Meadowlands will offer a two-month Thoroughbred meet after Monmouth closes.