Garden State Park
Barabara D. Livingstone

Garden State Park Barabara D. Livingstone

Barbara Livingston

No Definite Timetable for Garden State's Demise

The sale of Garden State Park to a development company is viewed as the death knell for live racing at the southern New Jersey track, but officials weren't able to say when the last live race will be run.

The track's Standardbred meet ends Dec. 16, and, as of Thursday, it hadn't been awarded 2001 Thoroughbred dates. Pennwood Racing, which leases Garden State, is said to have applied for a Thoroughbred meet; the application must be in to the New Jersey Racing Commission by Friday. A previous request from Pennwood to race six days at Garden State in 2001 was rejected by the commission.

A fall Standardbred meet for 2001 has been approved, but again, much depends on the new owner's plans to develop the property. Some industry officials believe there will be one more Thoroughbred meet, but they couldn't say for sure. With Garden State apparently set to close, and Atlantic City Race Course a mere shell of its former self (it applied for a 10-day, all-turf meet in 2001), Thoroughbred racing in South Jersey is all but done. That leaves Thoroughbred racing at Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, both of which are operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

Horsemen's organizations around the country have said they will pull signals from Garden State if the track isn't awarded live Thoroughbred dates. Much depends on whether the track applies for a meet, and whether the racing commission accepts the application. Definitive action was expected Friday.

In a related development, the tracks that comprise the Mid-Atlantic Consortium have agreed that none would take any simulcasts from states where horsemen are withholding the Garden State signal as a result of the dates issue.

The Garden State case is interesting in that a racetrack must be licensed to conduct live racing in order to offer simulcasting. Since it is licensed for a 2001 harness meet, the Cherry Hill facility could offer simulcasting until it closes, but that revenue would be earmarked for Standardbred purses. That situation has led the horsemen's groups to take action.

Pennwood, though it leases the property, does own 10 acres on which a simulcasting facility could be built. But that may not be possible until off-track betting legislation is passed in New Jersey. A bill to that effect was conditionally vetoed by Gov. Christine Whitman.

Horsemen and racetrack officials are said to have met Thursday in Trenton, N.J., but the results of that meeting weren't available.