Kentucky Derby In September? NJ Tracks Adjust In COVID-19 Year


The Run For The Roses has been delayed from May until this Saturday — and New Jersey’s racetracks have had to restart their engines accordingly.

The Meadowlands Racetrack is opening its doors at 9 a.m., with the first race at Churchill Downs off two hours later. The Kentucky Derby race itself has a post time of 7:01 p.m., with live harness racing at the East Rutherford track beginning at 7:15 p.m.

Attendance is limited to the following:

  • Café seating
  • Backyard BBQ & Grill seating
  • East Deck dining
  • West Deck dining (begins at 5:30 p.m.)
  • 300 prepaid general admission tickets

Café picnic tables are available and guarantee the guest seating for both simulcasting and live racing. The Café will have waitress service and be tented for guest comfort. Guests can dine on racetrack staples including chicken wings and French fries, cheesesteaks, burgers, pretzels, popcorn, ice cream, and more.

Reservations must be prepaid and are $100 per table. Each table seats up to four people. The $100 is also a food credit that can be used at the outdoor Café on Kentucky Derby Day.

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The Backyard option

Backyard seating is also available for Derby Day. The Backyard BBQ & Grill opens at 11 a.m. and will have waitress service. Guests can dine on summer-time grilled fare including burgers, sausage, and hot dogs along with brisket, ribs, and mac and cheese.

Backyard reservations must be prepaid and are $25 per person. The $25 is also a food credit that can be used at the Backyard BBQ & Grill and Backyard Bar.

Reservations for Backyard dining can be made by emailing Jennifer Jordan at and including your phone number in the email. All Backyard diners should enter via the Backyard entrance.

The East Deck has waitress service and is covered for guest comfort. Guests can dine on BBQ from the Backyard BBQ & Grill. Reservations must be prepaid and are $100 per table. Each table seats up to four people. The $100 is also a food credit that can be used at the Backyard Grill on Kentucky Derby Day.

The West Deck has a $29.95 prix fixe dinner menu featuring a variety of cold salads. Grilled items along with a selection of packaged desserts will also be available. Reservations are required and dining must be prepaid. Reservations can be made by calling Marianne Rotella at 201-842-5059 or emailing Seating begins at 5:30 p.m.

Guests not interested in dining can purchase an admission-only ticket for $10. It guarantees track entrance through the Simulcast Entrance from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. If tickets remain, a limited number of cash walkups may be taken at the Simulcast Entrance.

Guests must make dining reservations for track admittance and guaranteed seating. All must wear face coverings while not at their table, have their temperature checked (no one with a temperature exceeding 100.4 will be allowed to enter), and complete a brief health questionnaire. All are also encouraged to download and fill out the required health questionnaire to speed up the check-in process. There is no valet parking available.

To purchase tickets, visit

Monmouth Park’s Derby plan

With the easing of restrictions on indoor dining throughout the state beginning Friday, Monmouth Park will now have the following locations open for indoor dining on a limited capacity (pending NJ Racing Commission approval): The William Hill Sports Bar, the first floor grandstand in front of the video board, the Patio Terrace Teletheater, and available reserved group rooms.

Dining areas will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Capacity for indoor dining will be restricted to 25% of the indoor dining area, as per Gov. Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 183. Masks are required for entry to the racetrack and social distancing guidelines will be in effect. Outside food and drink are not permitted.

Gates open on Friday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m., with simulcasting of the Kentucky Oaks card on Friday. First race post time for live racing Friday through Monday during the holiday weekend will be 12:50 p.m. Parking and admission remain free.

Cost for the Derby Day Picnic Party package is $37.50 per person. It includes all-you-can-eat food and soft drink service from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and access to the front side picnic area seating. The menu consists of pasta salad, hot dogs (with chili, cheese, and/or sauerkraut), cheeseburgers, BBQ chicken, bottled water, and assorted soda.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at If any Derby Day Picnic Party packages remain, they will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday.

Monmouth Park is also offering guaranteed entry on Kentucky Derby Day for $10, which includes a $10 food voucher that patrons will receive upon entry.

Free general admission on Kentucky Derby Day will be permitted on a first-come, first-served basis and will be limited in accordance with state regulations for capacity restrictions.

Monmouth Park’s Kentucky Derby Day festivities will include a “Derby Day Best Dressed” contest. The fan selected with the best coordination of outfit, mask, hat, and accessories will be declared the winner and will receive a $100 Kentucky Derby wager.

Mint Juleps, the traditional Kentucky Derby drink, will be offered throughout the facility as well and will be served in a commemorative Kentucky Derby 146 glass.

The Monmouth Park Gift Shop, located in the Grandstand, will also be selling Kentucky Derby 146 glasses, T-shirts, and other Derby-related items.

The live racing card on Saturday will be headlined by the Grade 3 Red Bank Stakes for 3-year-olds-and-up at a mile on the turf.

Freehold also in action

Freehold Raceway is resuming its live races this weekend after a break since mid-March due in part due to the pandemic.

The first of 13 races at Freehold on Saturday will begin at 12:30 p.m.

Photo by Jamie Rhodes / USA Today Sports

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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