Atlantic City Races On--But in Which Direction?

With two of its four live racing days complete for 2006, questions remain as to what Greenwood Racing intends to do with aging Atlantic City Race Course, which opened in 1946 and currently serves as a year-round simulcast facility for patrons in southern New Jersey.

The facility, one of the premier tracks in the country in its heyday, once conducted summer and early fall meets with dirt and turf racing, but now runs only four days, all on the turf, so Greenwood may continue to offer full-card simulcasts in part of the grandstand. The property, once shrouded by pine trees, is surrounded by condominiums and shopping centers.

Earlier this year, Greenwood began exploring the possibility of redeveloping the site into a new Atlantic City Race Course and running a longer meet in early spring, before Monmouth Park opens in late May. It would also help to extend the racing season for New Jersey-based horsemen.

Hal Handel, chief executive officer of Greenwood, which owns Philadelphia Park in nearby Pennsylvania, indicated the original grandstand would be torn down due to its deteriorating condition, and a new building erected to serve both as a grandstand and off-track wagering site. However, it doesn't appear a new Atlantic City will swing into operation any time soon.

"The plans are very complicated and require approval and a degree of support from a wide variety of local, county, and state officials," Handel said. "It's premature to speculate on whether things can come together for 2007. We should have better idea by summer."

On April 26-27, Atlantic City presented two seven-race cards for total purses of $254,000. With only on-track wagering offered on the live product, about $300,000 was bet, and total attendance exceeded 6,600.

Greenwood said the signal wasn't exported because it wasn't cost-effective due to the limited amount of races and number of days. Two more all-turf programs are scheduled for May 3-4.

The live racing calendar in New Jersey gets into full swing at Monmouth Park, which opens May 13. (Monmouth, located in Oceanport, will host the 2007 Breeders' Cup World Championships.) Through the late 1990s, the Monmouth and Atlantic City meets overlapped, with Monmouth open in the afternoon and Atlantic City at night.

Soon after Atlantic City scrapped its regular meets, Garden State Park in Cherry Hill Township closed, leaving New Jersey with Thoroughbred racing only at Monmouth in the late spring and summer, and Meadowlands in the fall.