02/22/2017 1:36PM

Monmouth: Fewer stakes, lower purses for 2017

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Nikki Sherman
The $1 million Haskell on July 30 will again be the highlight of Monmouth Park's season.

Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., will run 33 stakes races this year with total purses of $3,725,000, down from 41 stakes scheduled for last year’s meet with total purses of $4.65 million, according to a stakes schedule distributed by the track on Wednesday.

The stakes schedule is headed by the $1 million Haskell Invitational, the Grade 1 stakes restricted to 3-year-olds that will anchor a July 30 program with four other graded stakes. Monmouth’s other Grade 1, the $300,000 United Nations Stakes, will be held on July 1.

Monmouth trimmed a number of overnight stakes from the schedule this year and cut the purses for some lower-level stakes by $15,000. The track, which is operated by New Jersey’s horsemen’s group under a long-term lease with the state, which owns the track, has struggled over the past few years to hit its benchmarks for handle, and it is considering shortening its meet this year if legislation is passed allowing for the cuts.

The 56-day meet is scheduled to open May 13 and close Sept. 24, but a recent stall application states that the meet will conclude Sept. 10. The last stakes is scheduled for Sept. 4.

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Total handle at the 2016 Monmouth meet dropped by 25 percent. Total handle at the subsequent Monmouth-at-the-Meadowlands meet dropped 13 percent despite a well-publicized across-the-board cut in the track’s takeout rate.