(Edited press release)
Bucking the national trend of racing, Monmouth Park concluded its 2008 meeting on Sept. 28 with significant gains in daily average handle.
During the 100-day meet that opened May 9, total wagering reached $327,480,007. The average daily handle of $3,274,800 was 3.1% higher than the 2007 average of $3,177,212, during a 75-day meet. Leading the way this year was an unprecedented 10.5% increase in simulcast betting on Monmouth races.
On-track was another story, however, as myriad factors led to declines in betting and attendance at the site.
"It’s safe to say the 2008 meet gave us some expected mixed results,” said Dennis Robinson, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. “It’s encouraging that our daily handle showed such a large increase. It’s a testament that our product is strong and that more and more fans are watching and wagering on Monmouth Park.”
With the further development of New Jersey’s OTB and account wagering system, and travel costs escalating rapidly through the summer, on-track numbers registered declines. Average daily wagering on-site was off 29%, while attendance fell 27%.
“We expected to see declines in on-track handle and attendance,” Robinson said. “With the success of our Woodbridge OTB, the opening of another OTB in Toms River, and the continued expansion of our internet and phone wagering accounts, all coupled with the cost of travel, it’s no surprise that fans are staying close to home, if not at home, and wagering."
“These alternative wagering outlets are just in their infancy, and I’m sure as time goes by their success will prove a wise investment for the racetracks, and, more importantly, a substantial revenue stream for the state of New Jersey,” Robinson said.
The star of the 2008 show was Big Brown, who wrapped up the 3-year-old championship in two exciting visits to Monmouth Park during the summer. The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner scored a rousing victory in the $1-million Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) to cap Monmouth’s best day of the season on Aug. 3. He returned on September 13 to beat older horses on the turf in the $500,000 Monmouth Stakes.
A Haskell Day crowd of 45,132 helped spur Monmouth to record wagering on the race and day. The Haskell handle of $4,257,409 was a record, and led to total betting of $17,642,954 for the day, an all-time record for New Jersey pari-mutuels (non-Breeders’ Cup).
Jose Lezcano won his first Monmouth riding title, finishing with 141 victories. Eddie Castro and Joe Bravo were second and third.
Bruce Levine, who had finished second three years in a row, cruised to his first training title, saddling 54 winners during the meeting. Jason Servis and Eddie Broome finished second and third.
Repole Stable was the top owner with 21 wins, followed by Broome and Patricia Generazio.
Live Thoroughbred racing in New Jersey shifts to the Meadowlands Sept. 30 afternoon for a 41-day meeting that runs through Nov. 15.