Monmouth averages up from 2016; horsemen look to the future

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Sept. 11, 2017

After a 2016 racing season that produced declines of about 25% in pari-mutuel wagering, Monmouth Park’s numbers rebounded just enough this year to offer hope to horsemen and management.

The 50-day meet—down from 57 days last year to maintain competitive purse levels—generated an average daily handle of about $3.47 million, according to figures released by the New Jersey track after the final program Sept. 10. On-track wagering on live races increased about 8% to $424,556, while handle from other locations and sources was up 0.4% to $3,050,257.

Officials reported average daily attendance of 9,234, up 7.4% from 2016. Monmouth, leased from the state by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and operated on its behalf by Darby Development, relies heavily upon on-track business, including food and beverage sales and revenue from special events, to help its bottom line.

Purses this year averaged a little more than $300,000 a day.

The NJTHA and Darby Development are hoping even a little momentum will set the table for continued growth and perhaps assistance from state government after the November election. This is Republican Chris Christie’s final year of his second term in office.

“This year’s numbers are indicative that people continue to support racing in New Jersey,” said Dennis Drazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Darby Development. “We continue to operate at a distinct disadvantage to our neighbors, who have alternative revenue streams boosting their purses. Nevertheless, fans embrace our product, our determination has never wavered, and people continue to make Monmouth Park one of the top destinations in the state.”

Drazin noted that “much work remains to be done,” and that management is “cautiously optimistic for a favorable outcome when the Supreme Court delivers a final verdict on our more than five-year fight to bring sports betting to New Jersey.

Other states have signed on to the push to overturn the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 as has the American Gaming Association, a strong proponent of sports betting given the large amount of money wagered illegally on professional and collegiate sports in the United States.

The leading owner for the 2017 meet at Monmouth was John Brunetti’s Red Oaks Stable with 13 wins. Jorge Navarro won his fifth consecutive training title with 65 victories, while Nik Juarez was leading jockey with 75 wins.

Darby Development, via legislation, was able to trim its live racing days to a minimum of 50 from the previously mandated 71. Its all-turf meet at Meadowlands was reduced as well this year, but there will be eight programs beginning Sept. 22.

Live racing at Meadowlands will held Fridays and Saturdays the last two weeks of September, and every Saturday in October. First post time is set for 7 p.m. with the exception of Oct. 28, when it will be 5:30 p.m. In previous years, Darby Development has offered six-race programs.

(Monmouth Park photo by Tom LaMarra)