12/19/2011 1:28PM

Monmouth Park deal still in negotiations

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Horsemen and the state remained in negotiations on Monday over a deal that would keep Monmouth Park in New Jersey open in 2012 despite the recent collapse of a deal to lease the track, according to horsemen’s representatives.

Dennis Drazin, a consultant to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association who is leading the negotiations for the group, said that both sides had agreed in principle to most of the major elements to the deal, but remained in negotiations over several points relating to offtrack betting and the possibility of running Thoroughbreds at the Meadowlands, a harness track over the river from New York city, in the spring and fall.

“We’re working on the paperwork nonstop,” Drazin said Monday.

Both Monmouth and the Meadowlands are owned by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, a state agency. Gov. Chris Christie has pushed for both tracks to be leased by private operators, citing recurring losses from the authority’s racing operations.

Under the deal, Monmouth Park would run 141 race days next year for “earned purses,” an amount that would likely set average daily purse distribution at approximately $150,000 a day, roughly half the average purse distribution at the track over the past decade. New Jersey law requires a minimum of 141 live racing days, and there remains the possibility that horsemen might waive that requirement in order to run a shorter meet in 2012, as had been done in both 2010 and 2011.

The agreement under negotiation could also allow for a six-day mixed meet at the Meadowlands in the spring in which Standardbred horses would run on the main dirt track – which has been recently re-banked for harness racing – and Thoroughbreds would run on the turf course. The negotiations also would give the Thoroughbred horsemen the right to run as many as 15 turf-only Thoroughbred dates in late summer or fall, Drazin said.

The negotiations underway are complex because of a number of arrangements between the state and the leaseholder of the Meadowlands, Jeff Gural. Those arrangements were negotiated in tandem with a lease agreement for Monmouth with Morris Bailey, who backed out of the talks in early December following the acrimonious collapse of the Monmouth lease deal.

The agreement under negotiation would also include a commitment by the state to reoffer the lease of Monmouth early next year, under substantially the same terms as Bailey agreed to. Horsemen are expected to make a bid for the lease.