Monmouth Park excited about racing changes

Adramatic shift in New Jersey racing will emerge in 2010 when Monmouth Park offers $1 million in average daily purses, by far the highest in North America. Monmouth’s million-dollar meet, which gets under way on May 22, will showcase 50 live racing dates running through Labor Day, Sept. 6.

In total, New Jersey thoroughbred racing will see 71 live dates, down from the 141 that have been contested the past several years. After the million-dollar meet, Monmouth Park will host a fall racing meet on Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 21.

“It would not have been possible without the collaborative effort of all stakeholders in New Jersey racing; specifically the Governor’s Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission and the work of Bob Mulcahy,” said Dennis R. Robinson, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which owns and operates Monmouth Park. “We’re confident that this new racing schedule, coupled with the nation’s highest purses, will breathe new life into this industry and become a new foundation for racing, breeding and tourism in the Garden State.”

Following opening weekend of May 22 and 23, live racing returns on May 29, May 30 and May 31 (Memorial Day). After the Memorial Day card, Monmouth will race on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as well as Monday, July 5 (Fourth of July holiday) and Monday, Sept. 6 (Labor Day). The $1 million per day in purses more than triples the $331,000 in average daily purses offered at Monmouth in 2009.

After the Labor Day card, Monmouth Park will host live racing on Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 21. Purses for those cards will range from $250,000 to $300,000 per day, with the exception of Saturday, Sept. 18, when New Jersey-breds take center stage. Purses that day will be approximately $1 million.

“Once again, Monmouth is on the cutting edge of the industry,” Robinson said. “This is a game changer, not just for racing in New Jersey, but for the entire region. The longevity of the racing season is nearly identical to what it’s been the past several years; but with fewer dates and the highest purses in the country, we’re more than a little optimistic that significant gains in attendance, handle and field size are quickly on the horizon.”

Major changes to the purse structure include maiden special weight events, which will go for $75,000, and an entry-level allowance test, which will be set at $80,000. By comparison, purses for those races in 2009 were $38,000 and $41,000, respectively.

Overnight stakes, which were contested for $60,000 to $70,000 in 2009, will start at $100,000 during the million dollar meeting.

“There’s no question that this purse structure will generate interest from horsemen throughout the country,” said Robert Kulina, vice president and general manager of Monmouth Park. “Bringing this concept to fruition would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the past and current presidents of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Dennis Drazin and John Forbes. Also, the work of Tom Luchento, of the standardbred association, and Tommy Swales, of the New Jersey breeders group, must be recognized as key components to getting this agreement finalized.

“The reality is fans have been asking for quality, competitive racing with larger field sizes. What we’re offering in 2010 should more than satiate that appetite and produce results favorable to fans, horsemen, the Sports Authority and the state of New Jersey.”

The racetrack expects to average 12 live races per day, with holiday cards likely to see 12 to 13 live events.

In a major shift in New Jersey racing, thoroughbreds will not compete at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford for the first time since 1977.

“The savings associated with running thoroughbreds strictly at Monmouth and standardbreds at the Meadowlands will help close the 2010 budget gap at the NJSEA,” added Robinson. “As time goes on, we’re optimistic that the changes we’re implementing this year will not only shrink our annual deficit, but hopefully return the Monmouth Park meet back to profitability.”

By comparison, the top five racetracks, with average daily purse distribution in 2009, were:

1. Saratoga Racecourse (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), 36 days, $729,100;

2. Keeneland fall meet (Lexington, Ky), 17 days, $608,730;

3. Keeneland spring meet (Lexington, Ky), 15 days, $601,950;

4. Belmont Park fall meet (Elmont, N.Y.), 33 days, $556,545; and

5. Del Mar Racecourse (Del Mar, Cal.), 37 days, $544,295.