01/25/2010 12:00AM

Panel out to cut New Jersey races


Contending that the "status quo is not sustainable," a draft report from a committee examining the finances and future of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority has recommended that Monmouth Park hold a 50-day Thoroughbred meet and that the Meadowlands cease hosting Thoroughbred races altogether.

The recommendations, if implemented, would pare the live racing schedule in New Jersey by 91 dates. The report indicates that the 2010 budget for the sports authority's racing operations estimates losses of $13 million under the current racing schedule, which, under an agreement with horsemen in the state, calls for 141 live racing dates a year through 2016.

"We encourage consideration of all the options to make horse racing self-sustaining, including consolidation of racing statewide," the report's authors wrote. "The ultimate goal is to continue to have live racing at a venue where the Sports Authority and its [offtrack betting] system can operate without a subsidy."

Separately, the report states that "without outside financial resources, the authority will be forced to discontinue racing operations in 2010."

Dennis Drazin, the former president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the report's recommendations had "no chance" of implementation this year because of the existing contract guaranteeing racing dates. Drazin negotiated the existing contract, but he has been prohibited from carrying on any other negotiations because of his recent appointment to the New Jersey Racing Commission.

"They have a contract, they have an obligation to race those days," Drazin said. "I don't think there's any serious backing to the threat" to shut down racing at the two tracks.

Drazin said that horsemen and management of the racetracks had considered a 50-day meet at Monmouth over the past two years, but only if the track could guarantee $1 million a day in purse distribution. The authority has balked at providing a guarantee for the total purse outlay of $50 million, Drazin said.

The report was generated by a 13-member committee appointed by Gov. Chris Christie shortly after he was elected late last year to aid in the transition from Gov. Jon Corzine's previous administration. In addition to Monmouth and the Meadowlands, the authority owns and operates a football stadium and indoor sports and concert facility, along with additional space at the sprawling complex just miles from New York City.

The report says the state should consider the "commercial redevelopment" of the Meadowlands, which also hosts a high-profile harness meet that includes the Hambletonian, one of harness racing's most famous races. Other "potential uses" for the site, according to the report, would be the construction of an auto-racing track.