05/22/2010 10:44AM

Monmouth: One in a Million

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Opening Day of whatever you prefer to call the 2010 Monmouth meet -- "The Elite Meet", or the "$50 Million Meet" -- is finally upon us. Monmouth officials will be happy as long as it's not "The Last Meet," as some fear, since the state of New Jersey is essentially gambling that the extreme enhancement of purses, funded in part by the taxpayers of the Garden State, will lead to a rejuvenation of racing. The thinking here is it will not only do that, but it will change the landscape of Thoroughbred racing in this country.

Less is indeed more at this point in the racing game, which is beginning to take on the feel of jai-alai -- scant crowds betting into smaller and smaller pools every day of the week, a scene that would discourage even the most eager newcomer at the local fronton...er, racetrack. That's not the situation everywhere, but for the most part that "Wow" factor has been missing from most racetracks. That is expected to change here this summer, and with all eyes on Monmouth Park others are bound to take notice and make the necessary changes.

Today's Opening Day at Monmouth Park figures to be a bonanza. These's a palpable buzz, a beautiful day on tap, a great card for betting. It's not quite beach season yet, and college courses are generally wrapped up. The marketing blitz couldn't be missed, and it's been a long winter without action. Last year's attendance on opening day was 10,292. Under the circumstances, it wouldn't be a surprise to see that figure rise 50% for this season's opener, which, of course, would be a very good beginning to a critical racing season.