Darby Development plans to pursue longer Meadowlands meet

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Sept. 25, 2019

Though the New Jersey Racing Commission has not yet addressed racing schedules for 2020, it appears the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which leases and operates Monmouth Park, is ready to pursue a much longer Thoroughbred meet at Meadowlands next year.

Meadowlands in a Sept. 24 release said it has been “officially notified” by Monmouth that it intends to “exercise its option to convert the surface of the racetrack and race on the main track” from Oct. 2-Dec. 5 next year. In recent years Monmouth has held short turf-only meets at Meadowlands in the fall.

“While it is still possible that they will reconsider based on the costs, we must assume that there will be no live harness meet next fall at Meadowlands,” the track said in the release. “Should that occur, Meadowlands would extend the 2020 live (harness) meet beyond Hambletonian Day (in early August), racing until mid-September.”

Meadowlands has been able to offer harness racing in the fall because only the turf course has been utilized by Thoroughbreds. Darby Development, which operates Monmouth on behalf of the New Jersey THA, had planned to race about 20 days at Meadowlands this year, but the plan was delayed given ongoing negotiations for a $20 million-a-year purse supplement for racing from state government.

Darby Development Chief Executive Officer Dennis Drazin two years ago indicated that with sports betting, a purse supplement and perhaps additional forms of revenue, he would like to expand the Meadowlands Thoroughbred meet and simultaneously keep the Monmouth barn area open longer. All horses that race at Meadowlands are ship-ins.

One issue that has stalled the plan is the cost of converting the Standardbred surface to a Thoroughbred surface and back to a Standardbred surface. It could cost anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million based on previous reports.

The Meadowlands release also noted that on Sept. 18 the NJRC rejected a requested by Meadowlands to eliminate use of race-day Lasix for 2-year-old racing in New Jersey in 2020-21 and for the Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-olds in 2021. The track said the request was opposed by the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey and some practicing veterinarians.

Meadowlands said it may revisit the issue and request in the future.

Earlier this year, after a coalition of Thoroughbred racetracks announced a plan to phase-out use of Lasix on race day beginning in 2020—there have been no updates on the status of the plan—Monmouth issued a statement in support of its continued use.

“Monmouth Park will continue to adhere to the position of the American Association of Equine Practitioners regard the administration of race-day furosemide (Lasix) as the most effective treatment and preventative approach to controlling exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage in racehorses,” Drazin said. “Until further scientific evidence proves otherwise, we believe the policy set forth by the AAEP regarding the race-day use of furosemide is in the best interest and welfare of the horses and their riders.”

(Monmouth Park photo by Tom LaMarra)