01/30/2014 2:39PM

Monmouth Park to pay participation bonuses to trainers, owners

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Monmouth Park will become the latest track to award bonuses to owners and trainers for starting horses in races, regardless of where they finish, when the track opens its 2014 meet in May, track officials announced Thursday.

Under the program, trainers will receive $300 for each horse they start in an open race, above and beyond any purse earnings. Owners will receive $700 for each starter in an open dirt race who finishes fifth through last and will pocket $500 for each starter in an open turf race who finishes fifth through last.

Currently, Monmouth pays out a portion of the total purse from first through fourth place, and New Jersey-bred horses are eligible for a 40 percent bonus on purse earnings when starting in an open race.

In the face of steep declines in the foal crop, a handful of racetracks have adopted programs paying horsemen for starting horses over the past three years, including Del Mar and Gulfstream Park. The programs have sometimes drawn criticism for providing incentives for horsemen to start unfit horses in races and for rewarding mediocrity or worse, but many horsemen’s groups support them.

“Our primary goal is to give bettors the best product possible,” said Robert Kulina, president of the horsemen-owned company that operates Monmouth Park. “We expect the participation bonuses to have a positive effect on field size and competitiveness while rewarding horsemen for their support, given the increased cost of horse ownership.”

Monmouth is expected to open May 10, with 57 days of live racing through Sept. 28.