It’s post time, New Jersey!
It took mere seconds after an announcement from Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday to change the industry vibe for New Jersey betting.
Murphy allowed horse racing to resume this week, sparking welcome news for New Jersey’s three racetracks.
NEW: Horse racing will RESUME – with the first competitive races as early as next weekend.
At this time, we will not be able to allow fans back into our racetrack grandstands. Online gaming remains OPEN and capable of taking your wagers. pic.twitter.com/ogYc8XjyBd
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) May 29, 2020
The Meadowlands saw a quick opportunity.
One of harness racing’s most storied tracks quickly assembled qualifying races the following day. It prepares to open live racing, though without spectators, this Friday at 7:15 p.m.
For Monmouth Park, it signaled a sigh of relief. The Oceanport facility, which has already lost 20 of its projected 56 racing dates, looks all-clear for a July 3 opening.
Freehold Raceway gained confirmation that it can resume its harness racing schedule on or about Aug. 28.
Garden State bettors can access the action online via 4NJBets, powered by TVG. Members get a live-streaming video to enhance the racing experience.
The Big M: Meadowlands reopens on Friday
First up is the Meadowlands, a jewel in the harness-racing community affectionally dubbed The Big M.
In the near term, it is committed to racing on Friday and Saturday, presumably with a 7:15 p.m. first post.
Dave Brower, who sets the official morning line at the Meadowlands, expects a surge of betting support throughout New Jersey.
“People are chomping at the bit,” he told NJGamblingSites. “We are excited to get back. I think betting totals are going to blow people away.”
Brower expects Meadowlands to have 14- and 15-race cards, an increase over previous years, and contain large fields. That combination could produce skyrocketing online handle.
It already bears a psychological effect on Facebook and Twitter.
One social media post was visual, revealing a smiling horse. The other was audible.
“The sound of horses back on the track is like music to our ears,” it read, including a video with horses trotting in unison during qualifying runs.
Happy National SMILE day! 😃
— Meadowlands Racing (@TheMeadowlands) May 31, 2020
Big races at Meadowlands
Meadowlands Racing has been an industry staple since the 1970s. It holds one of the sport’s signature events, the Hambletonian, each year.
The “Hambo” carried a $1 million purse last year. Totals for 2020 were not immediately announced, but throughout the racing industry, stakes race purses have been cut.
The Hambletonian is scheduled for Aug. 8. The Meadowlands Pace, listed at $682,650 last year, is tabbed for July 18, with eliminations on July 11. That makes the race a pleasing spectacle, as bettors can follow the progress of contenders through a qualifying round.
Bettors may not be able to establish insight on more than 100 horses each night, but they can sketch the outlines by following leading drivers. That list includes:
- Dexter Dunn
- Yannick Gingras
- Corey Callahan
- Tim Tetrick
It is believed the Meadowlands will run into September and conduct a series of thoroughbred turf races in the fall. Like everything else in the sports world, that’s a fluid situation.
“This year, you have to take everything with a grain of salt,” Brower said.
Horse betting at Monmouth Park returns
Two-thirds of a loaf is better than none.
Two-thirds is roughly the percentage of racing Monmouth Park will be able to complete after it reopens July 3.
The revised lineup calls for Monmouth Park to begin racing Friday through Sunday every weekend in July and August, with a Saturday through Monday lineup on Labor Day weekend.
Monmouth then will drop Fridays and run Saturdays and Sundays through September.
This schedule will end a difficult period for the track, which performed a diplomatic soft-shoe with Murphy while 20 of its dates disappeared in April.
Rather than address the situation at intervals, Monmouth decided in April to forfeit the entire May and June portion of its schedule in one announcement. It also backed Murphy’s leading role during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Monmouth Park Racetrack will delay the opening of its stabling area until June 1 with live racing scheduled to commence July 4th weekend.
— Monmouth Park (@MonmouthPark) April 8, 2020
The track banked on a July 3 resumption and Murphy’s support to salvage the rest of its campaign.
The move paid off and Monmouth retained a big ally.
Dennis Drazin, the chairman and CEO of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth Park, has said the purse money not used in May and June will bolster the remaining cards.
That would ensure bigger fields and meaningful wagering handle.
Haskell Invitational still set for July
The track will also preserve its most cherished event, the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Invitational. It will take place Saturday, July 18.
On Haskell Day, admission gates open at 8 a.m.; post time for the first race is 12 p.m.
This is the event that gives Monmouth pedigree outside of its borders. It usually involves the nation’s top horses.
In 2019, the Haskell was won by Maximum Security, who later captured the $20 million Saudi Cup, the industry’s richest race.
Other big Haskell champions include Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, top filly Rachel Alexandra and Belmont Stakes winner Bet Twice.
Freehold reopening set for summer’s end
Freehold Raceway initially had 85 racing dates split between January through May, and late-August through Dec. 31 schedule.
Its actual comeback date is slated for the final weekend in August. The track will run Fridays and Saturdays until Dec. 31. Post-time is 12:30 p.m.
New Jersey tracks and bettors are having a winning week and it will only get better.