The truncated/delayed Haskell Day racing card at Monmouth Park on July 20 was a headache for just about everybody, as the high heat and humidity, combined with protestors worried about the safety of the horses, led to a difficult compromise.
The ultimate decision was about five hours of mid-day stoppage. So what to do about it now?
Monmouth Park officials have decided to hold a Fan Appreciation Day on Saturday, Aug. 17 — a prime date — with free admission, free parking, and food specials for a card that includes the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks.
“Haskell Day was obviously not what we wanted it to be or expected it to be this year, and we want our fans to know that we truly appreciate their patience during a difficult day as well as their continued support of Monmouth Park,” said track operator Dennis Drazin. “This is our small way of expressing our appreciation and saying thank you once again to all of our customers.”
Parking on Haskell Day was $10 and admission slightly less, so the dollar amounts are not game-changers for most people. But clearly there was a great inconvenience for many, so a gesture is likely to be appreciated.
Haskell tradition upended
The 14-race card was supposed to begin at noon, with the featured $1 mm Haskell Invitational 12th race to be aired on NBC nationally at 5:47 p.m. post time. So, literally, an all-day affair.
Instead, racing fans got a half-hour delay before the first race, then two races, then a reluctant decision to cancel six races and run the six stakes races beginning at 6 p.m. The Haskell Invitational didn’t go off until 8:11 p.m.
For many locals who live near the Oceanport track, this is a classic Jersey Shore Day: spend all or most of the afternoon at the track, then perhaps get together with family and friends for dinner.
But those who got there early got to see only two of the relatively modest races. Those who arrived much after 1 p.m. may have seen no races at all, if they only were focused on the Haskell Invitational and seeing if disqualified Kentucky Derby speedster Maximum Security could pull out the win (he did).
Those looking for a mid-afternoon arrival and who are engaged in social media fared better: They could adjust on the fly, perhaps having an early social dinner before heading out to the track.
And given the brutal early conditions, some told Drazin that they rather liked the change of schedule at this 52nd Haskell Day.
The solution offered won’t work for everyone. Some only visit the track once a year, some will be on vacation on the Aug. 17 weekend, some won’t be eager to make a long trek again for a non-Haskell card.
But it made sense for the track operators to offer something, and what they did offer makes a lot of sense. Now they’ll just hope that the heat and humidity don’t conspire against them on Fan Appreciation Day.
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