Horsemen Unhappy With Garden State Decision

New Jersey horsemen are unhappy that Garden State Park will not seek live racing dates in 2001. "New Jersey Thoroughbred horsemen are dismayed to see any more days of live racing in the state disappear, since live racing is the lifeblood of the horse economy," said Mark Fleder, general counsel for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, Inc. "Every day of live racing lost brings devastation to the horse economy and the thousands of people who work in it."

Fleder said one reason Garden State had trouble filling races was the decision to cut the number of racing dates in half. "There is no doubt that Garden State had some difficulty filling cards at last year's abbreviated meet," Fleder said. "This may well stem from the fact that the number of live racing days was cut in half when there were other live racing opportunities at much higher purses in the immediate area."

Fleder said one solution to the problems facing New Jersey racing would be implementation of off-track and telephone account wagering. Enabling legislation for OTB and phone wagering was passed by both houses of the state legislature last spring and is now awaiting action from Gov. Christie Whitman .

Richard Orbann, president and general manager of Garden State Park and Freehold Raceway, said Thursday the track does not intend to request 2001 dates. Orbann's statement confirms the widespread speculation that the Cherry Hill oval would terminate its live Thoroughbred meet. The track first opened in 1942 and, save for a brief period when it was closed due to a devastating fire in 1977, has continuously run a live meet.

"It would be my recommendation as president to the Pennwood Racing board (which currently leases the Garden State racetrack) to not have a Thoroughbred meet and to not provide stabling facilities in 2001," said Orbann. "They may see otherwise, but last year's meet was really an embarrassment. I don't know anybody in their right mind who would want to have another meet there. It was an economic disaster and we got zero support from horsemen. It makes no sense to inflict more pain on the betting public."

While Orbann could not provide specific numbers, he did say that this year's attendance and total handle were far below that of the 1999 meet. The Cherry Hill oval also presents a Standardbred meeting in the fall, and Orbann said it is uncertain whether 2001 dates will be requested, due to the possible sale of the racetrack and barn area by parent company International Thoroughbred Breeders Inc.