12/17/2010 6:56PM

New Jersey to loan horsemen money for Meadowlands plan

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The state of New Jersey will provide a short-term loan to Standardbred owners in the state so that they can pursue a lease arrangement that will enable them to run a meet at the Meadowlands next year, according to Gov. Chris Christie.

Under the agreement, harness racing will be held at the Meadowlands, which is currently owned and operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, beginning in January, in line with the track's typical harness racing schedule. The future of harness racing in the state has been jeopardized by Christie's stance that the state will no longer tolerate losses at the racetrack.

According to reports, Jeff Gural, the owner of two harness tracks in New York and a Standardbred owner and breeder, is spearheading the efforts to lease the track from the state. Gural has said that he is interested in privatizing the Meadowlands, which has consistently been rejected as a site for slot machines by state legislators because of the potential impact on Atlantic City casinos, which are also struggling.

The sports authority also owns and operates Monmouth Park, the state's showcase Thoroughbred track. The racing schedule at Monmouth Park is also currently up in the air because of Christie's position, although negotiations are ongoing between racing officials, legislators, and Gov. Christie on plans for the track next year.

Racing officials contacted about the impact of the Meadowlands deal on Thoroughbred racing declined to comment late Friday. The deal was announced late Friday afternoon.