Updated on 08/29/2011 10:38AM

Monmouth cancels weekend cards; hopes to ride out the storm

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OCEANPORT, N.J. – Monmouth Park is battening down every hatch in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Irene.

Monmouth canceled racing and ontrack simulcasting for both Saturday and Sunday. In addition, there will not be any training Sunday morning and the Woodbridge, N.J. offtrack wagering outlet will be closed. The scheduled Sunday feature, the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher for fillies and mares has been postponed until Sept. 3. The race, which had attracted six runners, will be redrawn.

The lost cards will be made up later in the meet.

As of Friday afternoon, Saturday’s program was still a go and scheduled to start at 12:50 p.m. with shortened post times. The initial edge of the storm could produce a rainy Saturday afternoon.

The full impact is expected Sunday.

The Monmouth horsemen received a sobering assessment of the potential damage and danger during an emergency meeting held Friday morning in the backstretch recreation room with track officials and local law enforcement.

Horsemen were told to expect winds of 80 miles per hour with gusts over 100 accompanied by 5 to 10 inches of rain. The brunt of the storm was expected between 4 a.m. and noon on Sunday.

Horsemen were advised to secure all movable objects and seal up the barns as best they could.

The timing of the hurricane couldn’t be worse, coming with a new moon. That means tides will be at their highest, preventing draining of the water in the catch drains into the local creeks and rivers.

Barns 1 through 6, those closest to Route 36, face the most severe flooding threat, according to Horace Smith, Monmouth’s assistant vice president/operations. He cited a late November ‘Noreaster in 1992 that flooded that area so badly that large metal manure bins crashed through the restraining walls and wound up on the local roads.

The six barns house about 300 horses and their trainers were given several options including relocating to the 50 empty stalls elsewhere on the backstretch, moving the horses to local farms and training centers or relocating to the Meadowlands where a harness meet just concluded and 300 to 400 stalls are available.

Another concern is the safety of the backstretch community of assistant trainers, grooms, and hotwalkers.

“We have to hunker down and come up with a plan,” said vice president and general manager Bob Kulina. “We could relocate the people to the rec hall, or the first floor of the grandstand.”

Other than that, all everyone can do is hope for the best.

“We have to hope that this old facility holds up,” Kulina said.

Currency Swap will use Sapling as a back-up plan

Terri Pompay thought Currency Swap was something special right from the start.

The colt proved her right, winning his debut at Saratoga by six commanding lengths in one of the most impressive efforts of the meet by a 2-year-old.

Currency Swap posted an impressive 98 Beyer Figure in that first race and is now headed for bigger things.

“When we got him in from the farm in Florida, he did everything like a class horse,” Pompay said. “He’s a pretty mover, smart. As he progressed, we liked him more and more. We think he’s really a special horse. Hopefully, we can keep him sound as he is and he’ll show us what he can do.”

Pompay is leaning toward running Currency Swap in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga on Labor Day with the Grade 3 Sapling at Monmouth on Saturday, Sept. 3, a fallback position.

“We’re pointing toward the Hopeful but it all depends on the weather scenario next weekend,” Pompay said. “If it looked like a sloppy track up there, we would stay here and do the Sapling.”