03/22/2016 3:24PM

Monmouth trims $1.1 million from 2016 stakes schedule


In order to pay for several major capital improvement projects and keep overnight purses at a healthy level, Monmouth Park has shaved just less than $1.1 million from its stakes schedule this season.

Monmouth typically releases its slate of graded and major stakes prior to its opening, but this year has put out the entire schedule, including overnight stakes. A total of 41 stakes, worth a combined $4.65 million, will be held during the 57-day meet, a 19 percent reduction from a year ago – and that does not count the $750,000 increase made to the Haskell mid-meet last year to help ensure the presence of American Pharoah.

The biggest changes to the schedule are that the Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Stakes will not be run this year and the purse of the Grade 1 United Nations has been reduced from $500,000 to $300,000.

Since its creation in 2008, the Monmouth Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile turf race, has been positioned as a prep for the 1 3/8-mile United Nations, which is held July 4 weekend.

The purse of the United Nations was boosted to $500,000 in 2001. It was run for $750,000 from 2004 to 2011, and has been a $500,000 race ever since. The United Nations was won last year and in 2013 by Big Blue Kitten, who was honored as the 2015 male turf champion. In 2014, it was won by Main Sequence, who was awarded that year’s Eclipse Award.

According to Robert Kulina, the president of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth Park on behalf of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the Monmouth Stakes will be brought back in 2017.

"If we drop the Monmouth Stakes for one year, we get to keep our grade," Kulina said. "It will be back next year. As for the U.N., I just thought we needed that money in overnight purses. It was a business decision."

The capital improvement projects include putting a new roof on the grandstand, and repairing the track's elevators and escalators. Monmouth Park also is upgrading its video to high definition.

"We're talking millions of dollars," Kulina said. "We had to allocate some of our stakes money to get these things done."

Monmouth is in a tough spot because, unlike in surrounding states, purses in New Jersey do not receive any subsidy from alternative gambling. A percentage of casino revenue in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia is earmarked for purses.

Also, Monmouth officials have unsuccessfully tried for years to get sports betting legalized in New Jersey in the hope of developing a new revenue stream.

"Sports wagering is back in the Third Circuit court again," Kulina said. "The reality is that we don't know where it's going, and nothing is likely to happen before late spring or early summer. We thought it best to make these moves now."

While a referendum that would legalize casinos in northern New Jersey will be put to voters in November, it has not yet been decided where those casinos would be located or whether Thoroughbred racing will receive a percentage of the revenue.

"The positive thing is exchange wagering is coming soon, possibly next month," Kulina said. "We don't know how big it's going to be, but it could be very special."

As always, the Grade 1 Haskell will be the highlight of the Monmouth meet. The July 31 race will revert to its normal purse of $1 million after being boosted to $1.75 million last year when the race was won by Triple Crown winner and eventual Horse of the Year American Pharoah.

American Pharoah’s participation resulted in record handle and attendance at Monmouth. According to track officials, 60,983 fans turned out at Monmouth to see American Pharoah. All-sources handle for the day exceeded $17 million.

There will be four graded stakes run on this year's Haskell undercard. They are the Grade 2, $200,000 Monmouth Cup; the Grade 3, $150,000 Oceanport; the Grade 3, $100,000 Matchmaker; and the Grade 3, $100,000 Molly Pitcher.

The $100,000 Teddy Drone, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up, which was run on last year’s Haskell undercard, has been dropped from the stakes schedule. Six other stakes also have been shelved: The $75,000 Lighthouse, the $75,000 Elkwood, the $75,000 Monmouth Beach, the $70,000 Red Cross, the $60,000 Restoration, and the $60,000 Little Silver.

"Some of the minor events just weren't working," Kulina said. "The Mid-Atlantic has so many events that you just can't stay with a race if it keeps drawing short fields."

Four Grade 3 stakes have had their purses reduced from $150,000 to $100,000 for 2016. They are the Molly Pitcher, Matchmaker, Salvator Mile, and the Philip H. Iselin.

The Sorority, a six-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies that will be held Sept. 5, has had its purse restored to $100,000 this year. The Sorority was run as a $75,000 race in 2014 and 2015.

"The one thing that has made us who we are at Monmouth is our commitment to racing," Kulina said. "My hope is that we will be able to put more money into the stakes program next year."

Date Name Condition Distance Purse
Sat.,  May 14 Decathlon Stakes 3YO & UP 6F $75,000
Sat., May 21 Majestic Light Stakes 3YO & Up 1M $75,000
Sat., May 28 John J. Reilly Handicap 3YO & Up* 6F $60,000
Sun., May 29 Miss Liberty Stakes 3YO & Up F&M 1M (T) $75,000
Mon., May 30 Open Mind Handicap 3YO & Up F&M* 6F $60,000
Sat., June 4 Crank It Up Stakes 3YO Fillies 5 1/2F (T) $60,000
Sun., June 5 Red Bank Stakes (G3) 3YO & Up 1M (T) $100,000
Sat., June 11 Honey Bee Stakes 3YO & Up F&M 5 1/2F (T) $60,000
Sun., June 12 Select Stakes 5 1/2F (T) 5 1/2F (T) $60,000
Sat., June 18 Dan Horn Handicap 3YO & Up* 1M (T) $60,000
Sun., June 19 Pegasus Stakes (G3) 3YO 1 1/16M $150,000
Sat., June 25 Eatontown Stakes (G3) 3YO & Up F&M 1 1/16M (T) $100,000
Sun., June 26 Mr. Prospector Stakes 3YO & Up 6F $75,000
Sat., July 2 Salvator Mile (G3) 3YO & Up 1M (T) $100,000
Sun., July 3 United Nation Stakes (G1) 3YO & Up 1 3/8M (T) $300,000
Mon., July 4 Lady's Secret Stakes 3YO & Up F&M 1M 70YDS $100,000
Sat., July 9 Long Branch Stakes 3YO 1 1/16M $100,000
Sun., July 10 Wolf Hill Stakes 3YO & Up 5 1/2F (T) $60,000
Sat., July 16 Lamplighter Stakes 3YO 1 1/16M (T) $60,000
Sun., July 17 Miss Woodford Stakes 3YO Fillies 6F $75,000
Sat., July 23 Jersey Shore Stakes (G3) 3YO 6F $100,000
Sun., July 24 Boiling Springs Stakes (G3) 3YO Fillies 1 1/8M (T) $100,000
Sat., July 30 Regret Stakes 3YO & Up F&M 6F $75,000
Sun., July 31 Haskell Invitational (G1) 3YO 1 1/8M $1,000,000
Sun., July 31 Monmouth Cup (G2) 3YO & Up 1 1/16M $200,000
Sun., July 31 Matchmaker Stakes (G3) 3YO & Up F&M 1 1/8M (T) $100,000
Sun., July 31 Oceanport Stakes (G3) 3YO & Up 1 1/16M (T) $150,000
Sun., July 31 Molly Pitcher Stakes (G3) 3YO & Up F&M 1 1/16M $100,000
Sat., Aug. 6 Colleen Stakes 2YO Fillies 5 1/2F (T) $60,000
Sun., Aug. 7 Tyro Stakes 2YO 5 1/2F (T) $60,000
Sat., Aug. 13 My Frenchman Stakes 3YO & Up 5 1/2F (T) $60,000
Sun., Aug. 14 Blue Sparkler Stakes 3YO & Up F&M 5 1/2F (T) $60,000
Sat., Aug. 20 Monmouth Oaks (G3) 3YO Fillies 1 1/16M $100,000
Sun., Aug. 21 Cliff Hanger Stakes (G3) 3YO & Up 1 1/8M (T) $100,000
Sat., Aug. 27 Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) 3YO & Up 1 1/8M $100,000
Sun., Aug. 28 N.J. Breeders' Handicap 3YO & Up* 6F $60,000
Sun., Aug. 28 Charles Hesse III Handicap 3YO & Up* 1 1/16M $60,000
Sun., Aug. 28 Eleven North Handicap 3YO & Up F&M* 6F $60,000
Sat., Sept. 3 Violet Stakes (G3) 3YO & Up F&M 1 1/8M (T) $100,000
Sun., Sept. 4 Sapling Stakes 2YO 1M $100,000
Mon., Sept. 5 Sorority Stakes 2YO Fillies 6F $100,000
* - races for New Jersey-breds