OCEANPORT, N.J. – Blue
skies and balmy temperatures greeted the new era at Monmouth Park
Saturday, as the track opened its 67th season of Thoroughbred racing
with increases in attendance and wagering over last year.
This was the first day of racing under the auspices of Darby
Development LLC, which manages the racetrack for the New Jersey Thoroughbred
Horsemen’s Association. The NJTHA negotiated a five-year lease from the New
Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority to operate Monmouth Park.
“We’ve exceeded all expectations,” said Bob Kulina, president of Darby
Development. “Our business is based on handle, and to see on-track and
simulcast increases over last year is a great sign.
“We’ll continue to work hard to bring about the necessary changes here
at Monmouth, changes that not only will boost our handle, but enhance the
overall racing experience for on-track and simulcast patrons. Today was a great
start to what we hope is a new and bright future for Thoroughbred racing in the
Garden State,” Kulina said.
Saturday’s attendance of 12,008 was an increase of nearly 11 percent
over last year, when 10,847 were on hand.
All-sources wagering on Monmouth’s 12-race card hit $4,768,956 a 5.2
percent gain over 2011, when $4,534829 was bet.
The live handle saw an even bigger jump as $764,125 was bet on Saturday,
a nine percent gain from the $700,796 wagered a year ago.
Saturday was the first of 65 racing days at Monmouth, with the season
running through Oct. 7. There will be 10 days of turf racing at the
Meadowlands. Two days have already been run there, and the final eight days
will be run from Oct. 12 through Nov. 3.
The first feature of the 2012 season was the $75,000 Decathlon Stakes,
which was marred by a spill on the far turn involving five of the eight
starters. John Koenig’s Ponzi Scheme led the three finishers home, beating Flat
Bold by nearly three lengths. Soaring Stocks was third.
All five of the horses involved in the incident came back to the barn uninjured,
suffering only superficial cuts and bruises. The riders likewise escaped
serious injury. Only one, Angel Serpa, was taken to the Monmouth Medical
Center for precautionary
X-rays of his right shoulder.
Elvis Trujillo, Monmouth’s leading rider the past two years, got off to
a fast start for his third straight crown as he won four races, including the
feature. Trujillo took the fourth race on Raro
($6.80), the sixth on Final
Forest ($5.40) and the
seventh on Busted Again ($6.20).
Trujillo came back in the 10th race to
take the Decathlon Stakes aboard Ponzi Scheme, who ran the six furlongs in 1:10
flat over a fast track. The Juan Serey-trained son of Sunday Break paid $27.20,
$10.80 and $5 across the board and topped the exacta worth $175.80.
Congressional Page paid $5.20 and $3 to place and Soaring Stocks was $4.20 to
Zero Rate Policy, who was the leader on the backstretch, fell near the
half-mile pole, and Nathan’s HQ fell over him. Congressional Page and Bank
Merger lost their riders, but kept their feet. Wildcat Brief returned with
jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. aboard after going to the outside fence to escape the