Breeders Hope to Build on First New Jersey Festival

New Jersey-breds will be in the spotlight Sept. 20 at Monmouth Park as the first New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival takes center stage.

An 11-race card, with races written for every age and class of state-bred, has been drawn by the Monmouth racing office. Almost $500,000 in purses will be given out, and of the 11 races, only two failed to draw 10 horses or more.

Owners and breeders will be celebrating the fruits of their labors at a luncheon in Monmouth's Turf Club.

"New Jersey owners and breeders have watched the number of live racing dates in the state continue to decline, and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival is really something for them to get excited about," said Mike Campbell, administrative director of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey, which is based in Long Branch. "We're hoping it will be a big success."

Campbell said that next year, the TBANJ is hoping to pursue sponsorships for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival earlier in the year to help supplement the purse money Monmouth is providing.

One family that has supported the New Jersey-bred program for many years is the Sleeter family of Clementon. The Sleeters run a breeding and racing operation from their farm. There's Gerald and his wife, Carolyn, plus their son Kevin, a trainer at Monmouth, and his wife, Toni.

The Sleeters will have a number of horses in the festival, including Something Smith in the $45,000 Friendly Lover Handicap, and his full sister, Picnic Theme, in the $45,000 William A. Purdey Stakes.

"I'd like to have more in there," Gerald Sleeter said, "but some of our better horses are on the sidelines right now. But this day is a great idea--the biggest day of the year for us--and we're happy to support it."

Trainer Cal Lynch, who has been based at Monmouth for a number of years, will saddle Powers Prospect in the Purdey Stakes.

"I'm really happy they've started a day just for state-breds," Lynch said. "It gives the breeders and owners something to look forward to."

Eddie Broome, one of the leading owner/trainers in New Jersey for the past decade, said he's more than ready for the inaugural state-bred day at Monmouth.

"I'm really excited about the Jersey-bred festival," Broome said. "It's a great idea, and I'll do anything I can to support it."