02/06/2014 12:46PM

Monmouth Park announces 2014 stakes schedule


OCEANPORT, N.J. – The Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational again tops the stakes schedule this summer at Monmouth Park.

The 3-year-old stakes on July 27 headlines the 17 graded events worth a combined $3.55 million.

The $500,000 United Nations Stakes on the turf, the meet’s other Grade 1 contest, shifts to a Sunday, July 6. The U.N. and the supporting feature, the Grade 3, $150,000 Salvator Mile, will be televised on Fox Sports 1 as part of the Jockey Club Tour on Fox series of races.

There are some wrinkles in this year’s stakes lineup, in which no purses were cut for the graded races returning from last season.

After a one-year hiatus, a pair of Grade 3, $100,000 distaff grass races that originated at the Meadowlands return to Monmouth: the Violet for fillies and mares on Aug. 23 and the Boiling Springs for 3-year-olds on Aug. 30.

“You have the ability to not run a graded race for a year,” said Bob Kulina, president of Darby Development LLC which operates Monmouth. “I didn’t want to lose the grades. We’ll see how it works this year, instead of running an overnight stakes on those dates. Graded stakes are what everybody wants. They’re good for the owners and trainers, especially the filly races.”

The most drastic repositioning was the shift of the Grade 3, $100,000 Jersey Shore Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters from its traditional July 4 date to Aug. 16.

“It just wasn’t working where it was,” Kulina said. “It’s struggling to keep its grading. The races are so strong at NYRA with the King’s Bishop, this will be an option for somebody that’s not a Grade 1 runner. Maybe this makes it a little stronger event. We’re trying to find a place for it.”

The $100,000 Sapling, the last major open stakes, will now be run at a mile instead of six furlongs on Aug. 31. Monmouth’s top 2-year-old event lost its Grade 3 status this season and is now a listed stakes. The Sorority, the companion event for fillies, also was downgraded, dropping from a listed to an overnight stakes for a purse yet to be determined.

“For us, the 2-year-old races face too much competition at that time of the year in New York to make the races work,” Kulina said. “Saratoga’s 2-year-old program is so strong and so good that the Sorority, for the money we had been able to put into it, just didn’t work. Times have changed, so we’re changing with them.

“The Sapling might now generate some interest as one of the first 2-year-old stakes at a mile on the East Coast.”

The Grade 3, $100,000 Red Bank set for the turf May 17 will again launch the graded stakes schedule. Monmouth opens May 10 for a 57-day season through Sept. 28.

Participation bonus program to debut

The new meet will add a participation bonus program for any non-New Jersey-bred horse competing in an open race.

Trainers of eligible horses get a $300 bonus for each starter.

Purse splits will be 57 percent to the winner, 20 percent for second, 10 percent for third, and 5 percent for fourth. Owners of the remaining non-statebred starters get $700 in a dirt race, $500 in a turf race.

“I think everyone should be rewarded for participation,” Kulina said. “This is such a costly game for the owner. Being in the Mid-Atlantic region with so much competition, a guy can put a horse on a van to come here and cover some of his expenses. It costs people money to run.”

New Jersey-breds remain eligible for a 40 percent purse bonus when competing in open races.