Monmouth Park vice president and general manager Robert J. Kulina revealed plans for an afternoon devoted to New Jersey-bred runners, scheduled for September 20, during a luncheon to celebrate Saturday's opening of the 58th season of racing at Monmouth Park.
"Right now, we're still looking for a name...it could be either Jersey Fresh or Jersey Jamboree," Kulina said Tuesday. "It will feature horses running in a variety of categories, and we're hoping to make this into a major event down the road."
The Oceanport track will run a 92-meet schedule this year, divided into what is called the "traditional" Monmouth meet of Memorial Day to Labor Day, and then an additional 20 days in September. While purses are guaranteed to be $300,000 for the "traditional" portion, the September purses have yet to be determined.
"We're still looking for sponsorship for the Jersey-bred day, but we'd like total purses to be in the $500,000-600,000 range," said Mike Campbell, administrative director of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey. "There will be eight or nine races, from stakes to 2-year-old events."
Campbell said these are difficult times for Jersey breeders, as there is little incentive to drop foals in the state without a year-round racing schedule and with much larger purses and breeders' awards looming in nearby Pennsylvania, which is poised to legalize slot machines at racetracks.
"To provide a greater incentive to Jersey breeders, we're trying to get sponsorship for legislation which would provide benefits for them even if a Jersey-bred runs in out-of-state races," Campbell said. "We're hoping to get the legislation passed this year."
The numbers in New Jersey tell the story: In 1992, the foal crop numbered 499, while in 2002 it numbered 357, a 28% drop. That corresponded with 54% less racing dates in 2002 than there were in 1992, plus the loss of two race-meets (Garden State Park and Atlantic City Racecourse, which ran only three dates this year).
Fewer stallions are standing in New Jersey as well. In 1992, there were 73 stallions in residence, while in 2002 it declined to 42.
Campbell said that current plans call for the Jersey-bred day at Monmouth to be for only foals that are dropped in the state. "Hopefully, in 2005, we'd like to model our day after the Maryland Million, and expand to New Jersey-sired horses," he said.