For the first time this summer, New Jersey bettors will have two live tracks open.

While the Meadowlands harness racing program continues Friday and Saturday at 7:15 p.m., the big news of the week is the return of Monmouth Park.

The storied Oceanport facility opens its 75th live-racing thoroughbred campaign on Friday, July 3.

New Jersey online bettors can access the action at 4NJBETS, powered by TVG. They can also attend the track, which is operating at 25% capacity.

It is likely the track will be able to accommodate several thousand fans most days, but details on live attendance are still being worked out.

Here is an overview of Monmouth Park operations for bettors and the public, broken into a couple of areas.

Know before you go: Health and safety guidelines at Monmouth

The track released a set of protocols on Monday for attending fans.

Parking and admission will be free every day. That does not include TVG.com Haskell Day on July 18. Haskell ticketing details will be announced in the coming days.

All fans must enter through either the main Grandstand or Clubhouse entrances. Advance tickets are not required.

Prior to entry, all in attendance will receive a health check screening consisting of a temperature check and brief health questionnaire. Masks are required to enter.

There will be no outside food or beverage of any kind allowed in during the 2020 racing season.

Speaking of food, the track received some unexpected bad news Monday on the indoor dining front.

Gov. Phil Murphy paused the resumption of statewide indoor dining, which had been scheduled to start Thursday. Murphy cited coronavirus spikes in other states.

Monmouth has an indoor-outdoor restaurant, Blu Grotto, which will presumably only be able to utilize its outdoor operation. Like many COVID-19 regulations, this one is subject to change later.

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What about the William Hill sportsbook?

Monmouth Park will open its gates to fans at 11 a.m. daily starting Thursday, July 2.

That’s when simulcasting wagering and the William Hill Sports Book will be available for the first time since the track was shut down on March 16. The sportsbook will be following all guidelines in terms of capacity limits and social distancing.

Oceanport Centennial Stakes kicks off at Monmouth

At Monmouth, the live horse racing season begins Friday and runs through Sept. 27.

It will operate on a Friday–Sunday schedule, with the Friday first post at 5 p.m. (except Sept. 4 – 12:50 p.m.). Saturday and Sunday posts will be 12:50 p.m., except the Haskell, July 18, when the first race goes at noon.

Friday’s card will be headlined by the initial running of the $75,000 Oceanport Centennial Stakes.

Awesome Anywhere, who dominated in a starter allowance race at Oaklawn Park on March 1, will be the most noted of eight older horses.

Awesome Anywhere shook off a contentious early pace and captured the six-furlong March 1 event in a blazing 1:08.76. His jockey on Friday, Paco Lopez, has six riding titles at Monmouth Park.

The training title will be the most wide-open in several years. Jorge Navarro, who won seven straight crowns, will not return. Nor will Jason Servis, who often finished second to Navarro.

They were both indicted for alleged doping of horses in March. Although they have pleaded not guilty to federal charges, neither is allowed to race here for the foreseeable future.

Six trainers stabled on the grounds have a Monmouth training title to their credit. The list includes:

  • Kelly Breen
  • Jane Cibelli
  • Tim Hills
  • Bruce Alexander
  • Dan Lopez
  • Ben Perkins Jr.

Bettors should keep a keen eye on horses entered by those trainers. Breen and Jose Delgado are the two leading returnees from 2019. Breen won more than $1 million in earnings and Delgado more than $600,000 last year.

Delgado was a sizzling 51–81 in the money last year. This is important for gamblers who bet heavily across the board on key horses in trifecta and superfecta wagers.

Haskell excitement builds

The nominations list for the $1 million Haskell indicates the making of a strong field. There were, as of Monday, 33 nominations for a race that may have one-third of that total at the starting gate.

Santa Anita Derby runner-up Authentic is one of three runners nominated from Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s barn. Cezanne and Uncle Chuck are the others.

Baffert has won the Haskell Invitational a record eight times, doing so in 2015 (American Pharoah), 2014 (Bayern), 2012 (Paynter), 2011 (Coil), 2010 (Lookin at Lucky), 2005 (Roman Ruler), 2002 (War Emblem) and 2001 (Point Given).

Bettors will recognize a few other names in the Haskell portfolio. Several just ran in the Belmont Stakes.

Dr. Post, who finished second, is nominated. So is Max Player, who came in third. Tap it to Win, who led that race until the final turn before fading, is also on the list.

The Belmont also produced Pneumatic, who ran fourth, and Sole Volante, a disappointing sixth, in the Haskell nominations field.

In major races, owners pay an initial fee to nominate a horse. They will pay a second fee close to the time of the race if they decide to actually enter their horse in the event.

Factors influencing that decision include whether a more preferable race has opened up and how the horse is training.

What to expect at the Meadowlands

The Meadowlands, on the other hand, has had live racing at its track since May. The only difference now is it can let fans back in at 25% capacity.

Here’s an update from the Meadowlands on Twitter:

Guests can order from a server and eat and drink outside at the apron tables as long as there is six feet of social distancing between parties.

Outdoor dining will resume on Friday and Saturday nights for live racing.

The FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands also reopens this week, with all the proper social distancing measures in place.

Horse racing at the Big M: best bets

The Meadowlands continues its live racing schedule Friday and Saturday at 7:15 p.m. While its well-known drivers have done well, a couple of new forces to be reckoned with emerged last weekend.

Keep your eyes on Andrew McCarthy.

He secured four winners Saturday, all well-priced. Two of them paid 6-1, one returned 9-1 and a fourth was 23-1 — quite a night for anyone with a McCarthy angle.

David Miller, whom we’ve mentioned before as an overlooked veteran star, secured three wins Saturday.

The Big M has also run true to form, with top drivers Dexter Dunn, Yannick Gingras and Tim Tetrick getting their share of victories.

In fact, Tetrick won last Friday with favored Odds on Sarasota. When longshot Duck N Roll finished second, the exacta paid $251.

The Meadowlands pattern has been one of the top drivers performing well, with some races producing nice, surprisingly good payouts.

Dave Bontempo

About

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.