Get ready, New Jersey horse-racing bettors. It is almost post time for two major developments unfolding on the same day.
May 7 is rapidly descending as both the running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. and the opening of the Monmouth Park live thoroughbred racing season in Oceanport, N.J.
Each area has major significance in New Jersey.
Monmouth Park not only launches its May 7-Sept. 18 live meet on Derby Day, but it will enable bets on the Run for the Roses throughout its facility.
Monmouth can accommodate wagers at the track and at its Caesars Sportsbook facility on site. All New Jersey bettors can also access live mobile wagering via 4NJBETS, powered by TVG.
Some Kentucky Derby participants will likely appear later in Monmouth Park’s signature race, the $1 million Haskell Stakes, on July 23. Recent Haskell winners include 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Mandaloun.
Because of these developments, Monmouth Park and the Kentucky Derby are always linked in horse-racing circles.
Here’s an overview of how 2022 plans are shaping up.
Monmouth Park beefs up cards
Monmouth Park’s 77th season gets underway with an eight-race card as the prelude to the Kentucky Derby that evening.
The track has a 2 p.m. first post on May 7 and a 12:15 p.m. first race on weekends and holidays. Friday racing and a new Monday program throughout August carries a 2 p.m. post.
This is a breakdown of the stakes races and purses, according to track officials:
- A total of 50 stakes — 10 graded events — worth $8.135 million will highlight the meet, topped by the Haskell.
- Several stakes races will see a significant boost in purses this summer.
- Includes the Grade 1 United Nations, which goes from $500,000 to $600,000.
Other boosts include three Grade 3 races:
- Monmouth Cup (from $300,000 to $400,000)
- Molly Pitcher (from $250,000 to $400,000)
- Matchmaker (from $150,000 to $200,000).
All of those races, as well as the $100,000 Wolf Hill Stakes, will be on the Haskell Day undercard.
Haskell Preview Day on June 18 will feature four stakes races.
They include the Pegasus, Monmouth Stakes, Salvator Mile and Eatontown Stakes.
Changes in Monmouth Park day-to-day lineup
Friday’s new post time at 2 p.m. enables a a full eight-race card.
Because Monmouth Park does not have lights, Friday cards starting at 5 p.m. last year only allowed for six races. There won’t be any Friday racing in May. That will return in June.
The Monday cards starting at 2 p.m. in August is excellent news for Garden State residents who are reluctant to battle weekend shore traffic. This provides an additional opportunity to view races at the track.
August will be a loaded month with 17 race dates, including every Friday and Monday.
At some point in this campaign, perhaps early, Monmouth Park will become the first track in the country to offer fixed-odds wagering on specified races. This allows gamblers to lock in betting odds at some designated point in advance, rather than experience the fluctuations of pari-mutuel betting, which changes odds right up until post time.
Monmouth will operate live racing until Sept 18. Nine more weekend racing dates called Monmouth Park at the Meadowlands will be conducted between Sept. 23 and Oct. 22.
Caesars Sportsbook at Monmouth Park
Visitors to Monmouth Park have numerous betting options throughout the day, not only on horse-racing, but on all major sports.
Those options include the Caesars-branded retail sportsbook. Some might recall Gov. Phil Murphy placing the first legal sports wager in NJ sports betting history here (when it was a William Hill Sportsbook).
Here are the operating hours:
- Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-12 a.m.
- Friday: 10 a.m.-1 a.m.
- Saturday: 9 a.m.-1 a.m.
- Sunday: 9 a.m.-12 a.m.
The Kentucky Derby circuit
Here are the winners of the major Kentucky Derby prep races, deemed as 100-point awards in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings.
Epicenter will gain center-stage attention by virtue of a dominant victory in the Louisiana Derby and a Beyer Speed figure of 103. The speed figure incorporates the winning time of a race, the horse’s individual time and the inherent speed of the track over which it was run, among other factors.
Anything above 100 is excellent.
Taiba has a 103 figure at six furlongs and a 102 in his last race, a victory in the Santa Anita Derby. He is trying to win the Kentucky Derby in just his third race and would become a major story by doing so.
Messier has a 103 speed figure but was beaten handily by Taiba at the Santa Anita Derby.
White Abarrio captured the Florida Derby.
Mo Donegal won the Wood Memorial in New York and has shown major improvement over the last six months.
Cyberknife seized the Arkansas Derby.
Zandon surged to win the Blue Grass Stakes.
Crown Pride captured the UAE Derby in Dubai.
Tiz the Bomb earned his Derby credentials by winning the Jeff Ruby Steaks race.
None of the Kentucky Derby participants have gone this distance of 1 1-4 miles.
Epicenter and Crown Pride won in the longest prep races on the circuit, 1 3-16 miles. That’s the actual length of the Preakness Stakes on May 21 and the closest distance to the Kentucky Derby.
The overall field is expected to include 20 horses. They represent the top point-totals registered in a 48-race qualifying circuit that ran from last September until mid-April.
Recent Derby history
The late Medina Spirit was the original winner of the 2021 Run for the Roses, with Mandaloun second. A failed post-race drug test by the winner eventually led to a disqualification and Mandaloun being declared the champion.
Mandaloun then came to Monmouth Park and became the beneficiary of another major administrative decision.
He initially finished second to Hot Rod Charlie. But the winning horse was disqualified for clipping heels with Midnight Bourbon and Mandaloun was “put up” to first.
It is extremely rare to be elevated from second place to first in one stakes race, let alone two back-to-back.
Mandaloun thus won the Kentucky Derby and the Haskell via disqualification.
That’s a trivia question many people will be stumped on down the road.