04/15/2010 11:00PM

Meet kicking off with full fields

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Atlantic City Race Course in Hamilton Township, N.J., will hold the first of its six 2010 race cards on Sunday, kicking off a mini-meet that has become popular among horsemen in the region.

The six races on the opening-day card, all on turf, have drawn 70 horses, with five races offering 12-horse fields. Monday's six races have drawn the maximum of 72 horses, and Tuesday's six-race card has drawn 71.

Owned by Greenwood Racing, Atlantic City remains an anomaly in racing. The track holds short race meets each year, complying with regulations that require the track to hold live race dates in order to offer full-card simulcasting year-round.

The all-turf meet has been well-received by horsemen and nostalgic racing fans. Last year, the track's live handle ballooned 300 percent compared to the 2008 meet after the track's management decided to market the track's signal to out-of-state sites for the first time in 10 years.

This year, the track's signal will be available at approximately 60 out-of-state sites, according to Atlantic City's general manager, Maureen Bugdon, compared to 20 sites last year. Average handle last year was $540,000, compared to a $135,000 average the year before. Average field size was 10.5.

"With entries going the way they are for the first three days, we're going to have full fields every day, and I think we're going to have a lot of interest out there," Bugdon said.

After a Wednesday break, racing will resume Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. First post each racing day will be 3:30 p.m.

The Atlantic City meet will kick off the 2010 live racing season in New Jersey, a circuit that looks radically different than last year because of the plan by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to pare live race dates this year at its tracks from 140 to 72.

All 72 of those dates will be held at Monmouth Park, with 50 of the dates taking place on a Friday-Sunday schedule from May 22 until Labor Day. Each race card will give away an average of $1 million a day. Another 22 dates will be held on Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 21, with purses of approximately $300,000 for each race day.

Sal Sinatra, the track's racing secretary, said Atlantic City management will meet with horsemen following the six-day meet to see if there is any enthusiasm among trainers for two or four additional live race dates in September.