Monmouth Turf Racing to Begin Earlier Than Expected

While turf racing wasn't originally scheduled to commence at Monmouth Park until June 24, management is planning on carding the first race on the brand new course six days earlier than expected.

"More than likely, we'll be running on the course Father's Day (June 18)," said Robert Kulina, vice president and general manager of the New Jersey racetrack. "We'd like to have a race run while Ian Chivers, an Australian turf specialist who designed the course, is still in the country."

The first workouts were recorded earlier the week of June 12 on Monmouth's new course, which was redone at a cost of nearly $5 million in anticipation of the 2007 Breeders' Cup World Championships, which Monmouth will host for the first time. The course got rave reviews from horsemen, and Kulina said that, barring soft or yielding conditions, it was ready to go.

Monmouth's original turf course was built in 1950, and because it was constructed on a clay base, it never drained properly. It had been sodded and re-sodded many times in the ensuing years.

The unique and distinctive curlicue hedges in the infield and along the old course were removed because the roots also interfered with drainage. The new course, at seven furlongs with two chutes 1 1/8-mile and 5 1/2-furlong races, has scientifically designed subsoil and topsoil, plus banked turns.

There will be no infield plantings until the 2006 meet is complete, most likely in early October. Monmouth, in conjunction with the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association, will showcase an entire new infield scheme, which will be in bloom prior to the 2007 season.

Because the Monmouth course wasn't projected to be ready until late June, management of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns Monmouth and Meadowlands, planned three all-turf cards at Meadowlands to accommodate horsemen and fans--for June 5, 12, and 19. The June 5 card, however, was cancelled due to soft turf conditions.

Kulina said the June 12 card exceeded the expectations of the NJSEA.

"We were hoping to handle about $300,000 on-track and about $1.5 million from all sources," Kulina said, "and we actually handled nearly $350,000 on-track and close to $2 million from all sources. The program was very well-received by the public, the entry box was strong, and the large fields offered great betting opportunities. It was a highly successful day."