Monmouth meet numbers reflect regional competition

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Sept. 26, 2016

Decreases in field size and the number of races, as well as intense regional competition for horses, combined for a drop in pari-mutuel handle at the Monmouth Park meet that ended Sept. 25.

Darby Development, which operates the track for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, cited the positives for the 2016 season but again noted the challenges of dealing with a shrinking purse account.

“Horses follow purse money and our neighbors are working with a distinct advantage,” said Dennis Drazin, an adviser to Darby Development. “Every state surrounding us, and most of those surrounding them, have alternative gaming revenues fueling purses. These casino-fueled purses have led to a decrease in field size and carded races (at Monmouth), and obviously this has had a direct impact on our handle, both on-track and in the simulcast network.”

Total wagering on live races during the 57-day meet was $196,272,397, down 26.3% from last year. On-track handle was $22,431,306, down 26.6% from 2015, when 58 programs were offered.

Average daily attendance was reported at 8,833. Track officials noted there were 25,000 fewer patrons on hand this year for the Haskell Invitational, for which 2015 attendance was reported at almost 61,000.

The average number of horses per race fell to 7.28 from 8.11 last year. There were 86 fewer races in 2016.

Leading owner for the meet was J. Willard Thompson’s Quiet Winter Farm with 17 wins. Though Thompson has won training titles at Monmouth, this year marked Quiet Winter Farm’s first as leading owner.

Jorge Navarro won his fourth consecutive training title with 59 victories, while Paco Lopez won 105 races to earn his fifth leading rider title at Monmouth.

(Photo courtesy of Monmouth Park)