Tuesday's meeting of the New Jersey Racing Commission in Trenton, at which the 2001 dates requests of state racetracks will be considered, is expected to be well-attended and perhaps contentious, according to Barbara DeMarco-Reiche, lobbyist for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
A reduction in the number of live racing dates in the state for 2001, especially the six-day request by Garden State Park --which will not allow for stabling at the Cherry Hill oval - are sticking points with horsemen, who will not have any racing or stabling opportunities from Dec. 9, when the Meadowlands barn area closes, to mid-April, when Monmouth Park opens its backstretch.
"I'm anticipating a big turnout at the (NJRC) meeting, and things could heat up," said DeMarco-Reiche. "Not only are horsemen losing dates and stabling, but hundred of backstretch workers will lose their jobs and their benefits during the period when there is no live racing."
Garden State Park had originally indicated it would not apply for any 2001 dates, but announced two weeks ago that a six day, all-turf meet would be requested from May 3-8. Simulcast revenues which have accrued from its 2000 standardbred meet will result in average daily purses of $150,000 per day, with more than $1 million to be applied to Monmouth's 2001 meet if legislative approval can be obtained.
In regard to the legislation that would legalize off-track and account wagering in New Jersey, it has not been reintroduced to lawmakers since Gov. Whitman vetoed it in September. Bruce Garland, senior vice president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns and operates Monmouth Park and Meadowlands, said no new discussions have taken place between the NJSEA and horsemen, despite several overtures by the NJSEA, and hinted that purses at Monmouth Park in 2001 could decline slightly.
DeMarco-Reiche said she was not aware of any intent on the NJSEA's part to meet with the horsemen since Whitman's veto.