Trainer Gregg Sacco’s Mind Control worked 5 furlongs at Monmouth Park on Oct. 26, his final workout before the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2
Stephen Edelson, @steveedelsonAPP
Monmouth Park caught the attention of the horse racing world in 2010 when it held the so-called Elite Meet, featuring 49 days of racing with the highest purse level in the nation at around $800,000 per day.
And while there are widely divergent views on how the Oceanport racetrack fared financially, the amount of money wagered did skyrocket, and Monmouth Park’s profile was elevated.
Now track officials are looking at the past as a blueprint for the future.
Monmouth Park is now considering producing a “championship meet” of some kind within the core 56-day summer meet, currently scheduled to begin on May 4, Kentucky Derby Day, and run through Sept. 29.
While the details are still being worked out, Dennis Drazin, the chairman and CEO of Darby Development LLC, which operates Monmouth Park, indicated it could be up to 30 days of racing featuring purses of around $500,000 per day. The move would be an effort to take advantage of the lull in the racing calendar the end of the Triple Crown and the start of the Saratoga meet, while building up momentum up to and through the $1 million betfair.com Haskell Invitational on July 20.
The Haskell has been moved up one weekend, and shifted to a Saturday, to accommodate NBC.
The plan hinges on pending legislation in Trenton that would provide a $20 million purse subsidy to the New Jersey horse racing industry, with $10 million of that going to Monmouth Park to boost overnight purses.
The bill, which has the support of Senate President Steve Sweeney and Governor Phil Murphy, both Democrats, was unanimously approved by the Senate in December, and is expected to be taken up by the Assembly later this month.
In tweaking the racing calendar, Drazin is seeking to appease members of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which leases the track from the New Jersey Sports an Exposition Authority, having set up Darby Development to run Monmouth Park. Some horsemen want to run more days for lower average purses, while more money is wagered on better races with bigger fields that higher purses would create.
“There’s a split among the horsemen,’’ Drazin said. “There’s a faction that wants lower purses more days, feeling that if you make purses higher it attracts the better horses from New York and shippers, and it’s tougher for them. The other faction wants purses as high as they can be, which attracts larger fields and generates more revenue because more people wager on bigger fields with better horses, and it helps raise our reputation.
“We want to attract those better horses and encourage everyone to improve their racing stock, but also have enough races where you can find your level and have races for those who feel they can’t compete in the higher-end races.’’
The Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill has also provided an alternative revenue stream, having generated gross revenues of $10.1 million since opening in June through the end of November. The track splits the revenues, after expenses, with William Hill.
In 2010, Monmouth Park held 49 days of racing with purse levels of around $800,000 per-day. Average daily handle rose 213 percent during the meet when compared to a year earlier, when Monmouth Park ran 82 days.
Last year, Monmouth Park had average daily purses of around $325,000 over 52 days. But the overall numbers were down for the meet, with on-track wagering falling six percent, while total handle declined by 2.1 percent.
The hope is that several changes in the 2019 racing calendar will help improve the numbers. Monmouth Park will once again race on Fridays in June, having scaled back to just Saturday and Sunday last year. In addition, the track will end the one-year experiment of running four days a week in August, eliminating Thursday racing during that month.
Stephen Edelson: firstname.lastname@example.org