After two years of COVID-19 impact, the summer 2022 Monmouth Park meet for thoroughbred horses was business as usual — and a little more.
For instance, simulcast handle was $199.4 million for the 60-day meet, while the 68-day meet in 2019 produced $193.2 million in off-site wagers. Overall handle for the three years from 2020 to 2022 rose from $167.5 million to $173.5 million to $217.2 million.
The removal of many pandemic restrictions led to a literal doubling of the on-site handle from $8.9 million for 44 dates in 2020 vs. $17.8 million for the meet that just concluded in Oceanport on Sunday.
Attendance averaged 6,135 in 2022.
“We’re extremely pleased by the increase in handle for the 2022 meet, which we feel is a reflection of the quality of the product we were able to offer and the commitment from the horsemen to our program,” Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin said in a statement. “The numbers show the strength of our product and the willingness of bettors to wager on it.
Cyberknife’s track-record performance in the TVG.com Haskell Stakes brought longtime Jersey Shore resident Al Gold his first victory in his favorite track’s biggest race.
Drazin promised “additional facilities upgrades” for 2023 at New Jersey’s lone track to offer only thoroughbred racing.
Big years for Lopez and Gonzalez
Paco Lopez won his ninth Monmouth Park riding title, and Claudio Gonzalez earned his first training championship.
Only jockey “Jersey Joe” Bravo — who relocated to California a few years ago — has more titles than Lopez, with 13.
“It’s going to be hard to catch Joe Bravo, but I’m going to try,” the 36-year-old Lopez, who had an impressive 91 winners, told track officials. “I am going to enjoy this one”
Gonzalez is no stranger to the top trainer slot, having won 16 times at the Laurel track and twice at Pimlico. But having started his racing career at Monmouth Park, Gonzalez found special meaning in heading north from Maryland racetracks this summer.
“I still feel like this is my home,” Gonzalez said. “I really wanted to win the title here this year, especially after we got off to such a fast start. I’m very happy.”
Gonzalez finished with 32 winners, three ahead of always competitive runner-up Kelly Breen.
The honor of status as leading owner wound up in a four-way tie of Bergen Racing, Dave Gruskos, Monster Racing, and the partnership of Joseph and Gayle Ioa and Chuck Spina.
The annual all-turf “Monmouth-at-Meadowlands” thoroughbred meet launches Friday, with a promising 61 horses entered for the six races.
The nine-day meet will be held on Fridays and Saturdays from Sept. 23 through Oct. 22, with the exception of Saturday, Oct. 15, when Far Hills will feature its 101st steeplechase meet.
Post time for the Monmouth-at-Meadowlands cards is 7 p.m.
The opening night feature is a $45,000 allowance at a mile and a sixteenth. A field of nine has entered for that race.
Five of the six races on opening night will be at 1 1/16th miles, while the first race is a five-furlong dash.
The marquee races in East Rutherford over the next month are the $75,000 Honey Bee Stakes on Friday, Oct. 7, and the $75,000 Born to Run Stakes on Friday, Oct. 14.