Monmouth Park experienced a decline in racing dates from 56 to 37 this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But thoroughbreds will now have an opportunity for nine more dates starting on Oct. 3, pending state Racing Commission approval.
The original May 2 opening date had to be postponed until July 3, and bad weather canceled another date.
But the fall meet, typically described as “Meadowlands-at-Monmouth Park” because it features turf races in East Rutherford, is staying put this year.
Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin told njonlinegambling.com that “it wouldn’t be fair” to Meadowlands counterpart Jeff Gural to introduce an entire new set of horsemen and support staff there, when both tracks have been fully successful in avoiding positive testing.
Drazin added that his track also was in fine shape, given the shorter meet so far.
Pay the horsemen now — or pay them later?
The pleasant surprise of a modest amount of spectators allowed — a total of almost 56,000 for all the July and August weekends — generated unexpected additional revenue for the track.
That left the track with options. But Drazin said that “the horsemen have struggled” this year, so he wanted to return the extra revenue to them as soon as possible.
After the Saturday/Sunday session of Oct. 3-4 that follows immediately after the end of the summer meet, Monmouth Park’s races will be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays for the rest of the month, with a bonus racing day on Columbus Day, Oct. 12.
Drazin said that New York State signaling it would have no thoroughbred racing on Wednesdays in October led to the change in schedule.
The daily capacity under New Jersey regulations has been about 4,000, Drazin said. The new rule allowing for up to 25% capacity for indoor dining as well isn’t likely to have much impact on the track — it is largely experienced as an outdoor facility and temperatures already have been cooler than usual this time of year.
One modest added amenity, Drazin said, would be offering food and refreshments at the William Hill Sportsbook, which is currently limited to a capacity of 68 patrons.
All things considered, Drazin said, “This has been a great meet for us. The biggest challenge has been being strict about protocols — no winners in the winner’s circle, urging everyone to wear a mask even outside, no cigars in the food areas.”
The fall meet will feature a stakes schedule totaling $900,000, highlighted by the Grade 3 Monmouth Stakes at a mile and an eighth on the turf on Oct. 10.
First race post time throughout October will be 12:50 p.m.
Parking and admission are free.
Photo provided by Shutterstock
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