07/28/2011 2:25PM

Monmouth Park: New owner Morris Bailey has big plans for New Jersey racing


OCEANPORT, N.J. – Morris Bailey is in a hopeful mood these days.

He said he believes Concealed Identity, the gelding he owns in partnership with Linda Gaudet, can outrun his 12-1 morning line odds in the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Sunday at Monmouth Park.

In the bigger picture, Bailey is sanguine about the prospects of reviving New Jersey racing, now that he is in final stages of a lease negotiation to take control of Monmouth from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

“I love Monmouth,” Bailey said after the Haskell post position draw. “Aside from my interest in the track itself, it’s just a thrill to have a horse in the Haskell, one of the real treasures of racing.”

Most observers consider Monmouth the treasure of New Jersey racing. After decades of state management, Monmouth now returns to private hands.

For Bailey, a longtime horse owner, real estate developer, and co-owner of Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, the Haskell will be his first big event as the operator of Monmouth.

“The race is spectacular,” Bailey said. “It came up very strong. It should be a nice, exciting day for my whole family.”

Bailey hopes to bring more big days to Monmouth – and by extension the entire New Jersey racing industry.

“I would like to see the Haskell be a weekend event, instead of just the one day,” Bailey said. “We’re looking to bring it to another level.”

The immediate challenge, as Bailey sees it, is for the New Jersey racing industry to heal itself after a sometimes bruising transition from public to private hands.

One of the toughest fights was the racing schedule. After protracted negotiations, the horsemen agreed to reduce the racing schedule from 141 down to a minimum of 71 at Monmouth.

“It’s been an education for me,” Bailey said. “There were so many parties that looked at each other as adversarial. I wasn’t truly aware of all the issues. I think now, everyone in New Jersey is working together. We are a partnership. The state kept the governor’s objective of not subsidizing racing but they did help in a lot of ways to bring all the parties together. I believe the industry has to reinvent itself and I am going to take an active role in trying to get that done.”

It starts with the game itself, and Bailey considers himself a handicapper at heart.

“If I spend time on a race and bet a $20 exacta that wins, I feel like a genius,” Bailey said. “It’s a hobby and I love it.”

Bailey asserted one way to make racing more accessible is to introduce casino elements.

“I think I’m very fortunate to be able to market two assets, Resorts and Monmouth, together,” Bailey said. “I think they are very compatible in driving consumers both ways. We are looking at an integrated marketing campaign. We will be making physical improvements here at the track. It’s a three-year development deal, both here at the track, and in developing off-track wagering outlets.”

Among his ideas: more casino-style entertainment at Monmouth and new, simpler wagers.

“We want to make it like a video game, very easy to do,” Bailey said.

On the key question of alternative gaming to support the state’s racetracks, Bailey carefully straddles the line as the operator of an Atlantic City casino and a racetrack.

“I strongly support Gov. Christie’s commitment to rebuild Atlantic City as a destination resort location,” Bailey said. “Therefore, I don’t believe in the immediate future we will have slots at the racetracks. That will have to develop over a period of time.”