Updated on 05/17/2011 5:29PM

New Jersey horsemen postpone vote on Monmouth deal


The board of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association tabled a vote on a proposal from the lease-holder of Monmouth Park that would guarantee 71 live racing days per year and average daily purse distribution of $400,000 a day for the next five years, citing the need to communicate with its general membership first, according to the association's president.

The 10-member board tabled the proposal after a five-hour meeting on Monday afternoon with Morris Bailey, a New Jersey owner and breeder and New York real estate developer who was tabbed by the state to operate Monmouth Park for the next five years under a lease from the state.

John Forbes, president of the horsemen's association, said that the meeting was "cordial" but that members of the board wanted assurances from the association's general membership before voting to accept the proposal.

"Something like this - five years - that's a long time," Forbes said. "The board was uncomfortable getting into that length of a deal without consulting with the membership and giving them some input before voting."

Bailey said on Tuesday that he believed that the agreement could be ratified as early as Friday.

"They rightfully want to communicate with their members, and I'm generally optimistic that we can have something signed by the end of the week," Bailey said.

The board has not yet scheduled a follow-up meeting to conduct the vote, Forbes said.

Monmouth Park is currently scheduled to run 141 live racing days this year, the minimum under state law. The law can be disregarded if horsemen agree to a lower number of race days.

Under the proposed schedule for 2011 and beyond, Monmouth would run Fridays through Sundays and on holidays until early September. After Labor Day weekend, racing would be conducted on Saturdays and Sundays.

The racing schedule would be nearly identical to last year's meet, when Monmouth used a $19 million subsidy from Atlantic City casinos to boost purses over its first 50 days of racing to just under $800,000 a day, highest in the nation. Monmouth's handle for the summer meet tripled, and attendance rose nearly 50 percent.

Without a subsidy this year, handle and attendance are expected to settle near the numbers for the 2009 meet, when Monmouth and its sister track, the Meadowlands, ran a total of 140 racing days. That year, Monmouth and the Meadowlands distributed approximately $330,000 in purses each racing day, though those figures were also boosted by millions of dollars in subsidies from Atlantic City casinos.

Monmouth opened on Saturday with an 11-race card that drew $4,534,828 in bets, a 51.5 percent decline from last year's opening-day figure. Attendance for the card was 10,847, a 39.4 percent decline from the 2010 figure. Both figures, however, were slightly better than the figures for the 2009 opening-day card.

Bailey, who last year purchased an Atlantic City casino, was selected by the state to lease Monmouth earlier this year. Last Thursday, the state completed negotiations on the lease, which state officials said would allow Bailey to take over operations of the track on June 1.

Legislative action is necessary, however, to approve the lease, and several negotiating points remain up in the air, introducing the likelihood that the handover may be delayed.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had pressed the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to put Monmouth and the Meadowlands up for lease this year, contending that the two tracks were being subsidized by taxpayers. According to the state, Monmouth lost $6 million last year despite the gains in handle and attendance.