Sunday, March 27, 2011

Whad up wit dat? The future of Monmouth Park (Part II)

Is it me or is there a disconnect between reality and Monmouth Park's posted racing dates?

Earlier this weekend I caught this interview of Jeff Gural, the prospective white knight of the Meadowlands. I was impressed by the dude -- seems like he knows his stuff, he is ready to make sweeping changes at the Big M, and at the same time he came across as very realistic and pragmatic about the whole situation (I was struck by his "I don't mind losing $10 or $12 million for 18 or 19 months" quote). Gural has been in the picture for about three and a half months from what I understand, he has arranged $100 million funding, and he is now in the nitty-gritty phase of dealing with the unions.

So, sounds pretty far along and promising, and they're still saying best-case scenario is for racing to resume at the Big M by June or July.

Meanwhile, Monmouth Park is still soliciting bids through the end of the month, "prior to the due diligence process"! And Monmouth is planning to open its meet on Saturday, May 14?

What happens if all bidders (eight so far, from what I have read) decide to not move forward beyond their initial interest? What if the erstwhile bidder isn't qualified or cannot reach agreement? What if something falls apart during due diligence? Even let's say best case, something moves forward, how long will due diligence take? Monmouth Park ain't no lemonade stand -- any entity considering sinking millions into the track and operating it for a five-year period is going to want to make sure everything is right.

Add it all up and unless I'm missing something here, simulcast signals will be the only racing seen and heard at Monmouth Park on May 14. I suspect there will be some semblance of a Monmouth meet this year, but I'd guess it will some abbreviated job, perhaps starting around July 4 or maybe even a few-week deal centered around the Haskell.

Maybe I'm just Gloomy Gus, but I think no live racing at Monmouth this year is a more likely outcome than starting on May 14.


  1. I am of the same opinion. The only racing dates we know that will happen for sure is the turf meet at Atlantic City Race Course (a meet I historically do well at, but a once proud facility in shambles). This is a total shame since there will be no ability to promote this meet properly and it is just doomed at this point. I am really going to miss my Friday afternoon jaunts from the office to the picnic area (5.4 miles door-to-door from my office in Red Bank) this summer.

  2. Yes, in addition to the promotion aspect you cite, any MTH meet also has gotta be way behind the eight-ball on the horseflesh side, as I can't imagine that horsemen are not booking stalls elsewhere...mostly Parx and Delaware I would guess.
    It would be a great story to look into what the regular Monmouth trainers (Broome, Servis, Costa, Hartmann, Farro, Sleeter etc.) are doing...but unfortunately there aren't really and racing journalists left to write it!

  3. I think the aforementioned horsemen will be there no matter what the purse structure or racing dates for this summer. As long as anyone has a Jersey-bred or two they will be forced to take up a stall and perhaps bring a few more non-NJ breds.

    The way I read a blurb a few weeks back is that the Monmouth Park is slated to open under the NJSEA as of May 14th but the takeover under new management will not begin until June 1st (or thereabouts).

    Right now this fog in the crystal ball is preventing the condition book to be released. No one in the racing office really knows what kind of stock they have to work with of course.
    I also think the deal/no deal at the Meadowlands upstate may have an effect on how much (if any) casino redevelopment subsidies the Guv will release to the NJ Racing Commission.

    There would be less funds to share if the Big M is racing in June/July. But the key here is that Trenton has bitten off too much and it can't swallow everything all at once. Fixing one NJSEA racetrack at a time would have been the proper route.

  4. Knight, I'm wondering how will Monmouth open on May 14 under NJSEA if Christie isn't giving any more subsidies. Say as of May 14 a new operator is in the works or somesuch (as Gural is now with Big M) but w/no guarantees -- at that point if the NJSEA would start a meet, they could potentially be on the hook for an open-ended period of time. No way does Christie sign off on this given the meet is sure to bleed cash.
    Maybe I'm missing something here -- does NJSEA have the funds to operate a "bridge" meet from May 14 until a new entity takes over?

  5. Does the NJSEA have the funds? Good question. Right now John Forbes' NJTHA are waging a powerplay by standing pat with the extended 5 day/week racing schedule but I think we all know that is not the best route to proceed with for NJ racing - either this year or in the near future.

    Considering the NJSEA actually made a profit on last year's Elite Summmer Meet if you include their OTW's and NJAW revenues, I'd say yes. They should have earmarked at least something for this year's purses.

    But we should make a distinction between the NJSEA and the folks who actually run Monmouth Park. The latter probably know what's best for the live racing at Oceanport. Their parent NJSEA, given their past record, I'm just not too sure about.

    Hopefully none of the profits were diverted to something ridiculous like an aquarium in Camden. :P