Monmouth Park Revises 2020 Race Schedule, The Track’s Leading Trainers Go To Court

Monmouth Park continues to experience sweeping changes in its live horse racing schedule.

The Oceanport, New Jersey race track has pushed back its scheduled opening from early May until the July 4 weekend.  Of course, they are following coronavirus protocols issued by the New Jersey government.

The Monmouth Park 2020 race schedule

This year’s track schedule has been cut from 56 days to 36.

The revised, tentative lineup calls for Monmouth Park to begin racing July 3. It will run Friday-Sunday every weekend in July and August. It will then change to a Saturday-Monday on Labor Day weekend.

After Labor Day, Monmouth will only run Saturday and Sunday through September.

The shifting Monmouth’s 2020 live race schedule is an attempt to salvage the best part of the meet and give the NJ sports betting and horse racing fans a decent season.

The centerpiece of the season remains the $1 million TVG Haskell Invitational on July 18. It will be conducted at 1 1-8 miles.

The race already has notoriety, showcasing top champions throughout the years. The 2019 winner was Maximum Security.  The champion later won the world’s richest horse race, the $20 million Saudi Cup, in February.

It will have additional appeal this season, now serving as a prep race for the Kentucky Derby, which has been rescheduled for Sept. 5. The Haskell also will guarantee the winner a berth in the Breeders Cup in November.

And even though, Monmouth Park has delayed its season, other tracks around the country are still running.

Granted they are running to an empty grandstand, but that means horse betting is available for the sports betting crowd in NJ.

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Monmouth Park counting on state assistance

Dennis Drazin, chairman and CEO of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth Park, has been careful to remain verbally aligned with Gov. Phil Murphy.

In a statement released April 8, Drazin said he hoped Monmouth Park would be able to open for the holiday weekend, based on Murphy’s coronavirus criteria.

“With Gov. Murphy extending the health care emergency in New Jersey by an additional 30 days, it became impossible for us to move forward with our planned May 1 opening for stabling. We’ll continue to follow the governor’s leadership and look forward to a great season of racing at the Jersey Shore.”

Drazin has been careful not to alienate the governor. Murphy signed legislation last year enabling $20 million of annual taxpayer subsidies given to all three NJ racetracks:

  • Monmouth Park
  • Meadowland Racetrack
  • Freehold Raceway

For now, the subsidy runs through 2024.

Monmouth Park depends heavily upon the subsidy to bolster its purses enough to stay competitive with facilities in neighboring states.

Drazin has, in turn, sought state input on significant issues.

He garnered Murphy’s support last summer before changing the Haskell Invitational‘s schedule, the track’s most prominent race. It ran in the evening rather than cancel it amid searing temperatures and concerns over the safety of the horses.

Drazin presumably hopes Murphy will realize tax revenues from Monmouth Park are in the state’s best interest and that he will ease restrictions in time to enable a two-month racing card.

Drazin added that purse money not used in May and June races would be carried over into the rest of the summer cards. 

That would enhance their value and perhaps entice fields large enough to generate fan support and sports betting interest.

Doping scandal update

Regardless of when racing resumes, Monmouth Park’s two leading trainers from the past several years won’t be part of the action.

Jorge Navarro, Monmouth’s leading trainer for the last seven years, has no New Jersey license and won’t be allowed to compete. 

Jason Servis, often second in Monmouth’s training standings, had his license suspended by the New Jersey Racing Commission last month. He was, until recently, the trainer of Maximum Security.

Navarro and Servis are key figures in the sweeping racehorse doping investigation. The investigation led to 27 indictments announced March 9 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.

Allegedly, there was a scheme to manufacture, distribute and administer illegal drugs to racehorses existed. The trainers pleaded not guilty on April 2 on federal charges.

Each man is free after posting $200,000 bonds. The trial will likely last into 2021. Therefore, there are conditions for bail.

The bail order signed this week by U.S. District Court Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil imposes strict conditions. Both Navarro and Servis must:

  • Surrender all travel documents
  • Have no contact with co-defendants outside the presence of counsel
  • Have no contact with racehorses without supervision by the third party owner or agent of the premises where the horse is stabled
  • Report criminal charges to the licensing authorities in any states in which they are licensed
  • Meet all bail conditions within 21 days
About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.