Faced With State Cuts, New Jersey Reduces Live Race Dates

Although 141 dates for Thoroughbred racing in 2002 were approved by the New Jersey Racing Commission in December, the fact that a purse supplement from the legislature had been severely reduced and, in fact, may be eliminated from the state budget forced the commission to reduce the dates allocation to 120.

As commissioner Basil Plasteras stated Wednesday in announcing the dates reduction: "Running 141 dates in our opinion will be a disaster...it would signal the start of a downward spiral in the state which will be difficult to reverse."

The commission awarded Monmouth Park 76 dates. It will open with two weekends -- May 11 and 12, and May 18 and 19 -- before moving to its traditional five-day a week, Wednesday through Sunday schedule from May 25 through September 1.

The nine May dates at Monmouth will be run jointly with the Atlantic City Racing Association, which will allow for the use of more than $1 million of accrued simulcast money at the McKee City oval. Atlantic City will run only one day at its facility, on May 10. It will be an all-turf card.

Meadowlands will run 44 thoroughbred dates, starting on Labor Day, September 2 through November 16. The Meadowlands schedule will be four days a week, Wednesday through Saturday nights.

"We're very disappointed," said Frances "Bud" Keegan, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, in reaction to the 120 dates. "It seems the answer to everything is always to cut racing dates."

Dennis Drazin, legal counsel for the NJTHA, said that the association was planning to file suit in the state's appellate division in the Superior Court of New Jersey, claiming that 141 dates for 2002 are required by state law. That requirement was made part of off-track and account wagering legislation which was signed in August. Drazin also issued a warning.

"The New Jersey horsemen have the absolute right to withhold the exportation of Monmouth Park's simulcast signal anywhere in the country if 141 dates are not awarded," said Drazin.

Bruce Garland, senior vice president of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, declined comment on the commission's decision, but had previously stated that he felt running 141 dates without a sizable purse supplement would hurt business at both Monmouth Park and Meadowlands.