Saturday, February 27, 2010

Monmouth may offer $1M a day in purses

Matt Hegarty,
Daily Racing Form

Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, will run a 50-day meet in 2010 with purses averaging $1 million a day under a plan proposed by Gov. Chris Christie and supported by the state's horsemen, according to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger.

The plan calls for racing on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from May 22 to Labor Day, and would also entail dropping the Meadowlands's fall Thoroughbred meet, according to the Star-Ledger.

Monmouth and the Meadowlands are operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, a state agency. Earlier this year, a report commissioned by Gov. Christie called for the elimination of the Meadowlands meet and a 50-day meet at Monmouth, a dramatic reduction of the 141 live Thoroughbred racing dates that are required under a contract between the NJSEA and the state's horsemen through 2016. According to the report, horseracing operations at the NJSEA lost $13 million in 2009 [it has been widely but incorrectly reported that the racing operations lost $22 million].

At the time the report was released, Dennis Drazin, the former president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said that horsemen and management of the NJSEA had discussed the possibility of a 50-day meet, but that horsemen would not support the plan unless the state could guarantee that purses would be $1 million a day. According to Drazin, the state had balked at providing that guarantee.

Drazin and representatives of the NJSEA did not return phone calls placed on Thursday afternoon. The Star-Ledger quoted two anonymous sources who it said were "directly involved in the discussions." The report said that an announcement about the meet would take place next week.

Last year, Monmouth had an average purse distribution of $330,000 a day. If the track distributed $1 million a day, it would have the highest average daily purse distribution of any track in the country, and would compete for top-class horses with the major East Coast tracks, including Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

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