Small Foal Crop, Competition Impacts New Jersey

Citing a decrease in the number of entries for both divisions over the last few years that has resulted in short fields, the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association of New Jersey announced that, beginning in 2008, the New Jersey Futurity is being discontinued.

The Futurity, which dates to 1946 and has been run at Monmouth Park and Meadowlands, will be replaced by two stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds that don’t require sustaining payments.

More symptomatic of the Futurity’s small field sizes, however, is the fact the annual foal crop in the Garden State has remained stagnant the last several years despite incentives to breeders. In 2006, for instance, New Jersey-breds were eligible to earn bonuses for their breeders if they finished first, second, or third in out-of-state races when the live racing season at Monmouth and Meadowlands was over.

“The last three or four years, our foal crop has been about 315 foals,” said Michael Campbell, executive director of the TBANJ. “I thought it would increase with the new incentives, but we have so much competition right now from neighboring states that have slots and (video lottery terminals). The fact that our purse supplement from the Atlantic City casinos expires at the end of 2007, it seems no one wants to make a commitment to foal their mare in New Jersey.”

Campbell said it’s a very critical time for the TBANJ.

“Unless we get some help, unless some kind of an agreement with the casinos is made by the end of the year, we’re in serious trouble,” Campbell said. “Our program might not even exist. We are completely funded by the racetracks, and as an example this past year the handle at the Meadowlands was down by about 25%.

"Even if legislation enabling VLTs at New Jersey tracks is passed, we may not see the money for several years down the road. When a breeder decides to foal in New Jersey, it’s a three-year commitment, and they want to know whether the money is going to be there when that horse is ready to race.”

Campbell said he’s confident the governor and legislators will realize the importance of the horse industry and open space to the state and help it compete with neighboring jurisdictions.

Dennis Drazin, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said things are “moving forward” with establishing VLTs at state tracks.

“(Sen.) Richard Codey is a supporter of VLTs,” said Drazin, who noted the former acting governor has been a friend to the horse racing industry for many years. Drazin said there’s a good chance that the purse-supplement deal with the casinos would be extended after this year.

“But I don’t think a supplement is best for this industry,” he said. “We need to be independent.”