By the Numbers, a Dates Bloodbath in New Jersey

For comparison purposes, New Jersey's Thoroughbred horsemen will lose more than 40 racing dates in 2002 if the current schedule approved Jan. 30 by the New Jersey Racing Commission stands.

By law, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Monmouth Park and Meadowlands, must offer 141 days of Thoroughbred racing this year. The commission awarded 120: Monmouth got 76 days, and Meadowlands 44.

That's a loss of 21 days if the number in the legislative mandate is used. Last year, the two tracks were awarded 121 days.

Last year, Atlantic City Race Course, under former ownership, raced 10 days. This year, it was awarded one day, presumably to maintain its simulcasting license. Though Atlantic City will give Monmouth purse money to support several days of racing, the net loss of days at Atlantic City is still nine.

Then there's defunct Garden State Park, which closed last May shortly after a 13-day meet. Those dates have been lost as well, though that was expected.

All told, that's 43 fewer dates for Thoroughbreds. Given a 10-race program, that's 430 races. Compared with 2001 allotments, horsemen will lose 23 days in 2002.

The commission reduced the NJSEA dates because a purse supplement that fueled daily average purses of $300,000 a day last year has been denied for 2002. It wasn't apparent why the Atlantic City meet was in effect eliminated, other than to provide purse money for the NJSEA track.

Meanwhile, fall harness racing, which returned to the Meadowlands last year, was approved for 2002. A short meet will begin in late November and conclude in late December before the regular winter season begins.

The dates reduction has led the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association to talk lawsuit. Dennis Drazin, legal counsel for the New Jersey THA who played a key role in the drafting and passage of off-track and account wagering legislation last year, said the association plans to file the suit in the appellate division of the state Superior Court.

It is unclear whether the commission's action means plans to build OTB parlors and implement account wagering can't proceed, though they haven't progressed anyway. Bettors who used to frequent Garden State now have to cross the Delaware River to Pennsylvania or drive an hour to Atlantic City, Freehold Raceway, or Delaware Park for simulcasting.

Meanwhile, Drazin indicated even more damage could be wrought should horsemen keep Monmouth from exporting its signal. (It has the right to do so under the Interstate Horseracing Act.) Presumably purses at Monmouth will be reduced if the track can't export its signal.