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A Shore Thing

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 5/24/2010 2:36:31 PM


Everybody knows there is no such thing as a sure thing, but officials at Monmouth Park are thinking out of the box as they are trying to innovate their own version of a SHORE thing.

I cut my teeth at Monmouth Park, first went to the track there when I was 10 and made my first bet there at 8, but more on that later on.

This meeting in Oceanport is so unique it is now the buzzword of the sport.

First off, the numbers. A total of 148 horses entered for opening day, last year 46 less passed the entry box.

Not only will $5,000 claimers run for a $30,000 purse, unheard of even in today’s slot driven world, Monmouth will pay $1,500 to the last-place finishers in Jersey-bred races.

What this will do is to try to even the playing field a little so the smaller barns will not be totally swallowed up by the huge purses offered for quality runners.

Consider this; on opening day $25,000 claimers ran for a $46,000 purse; Jersey-bred MSW runners aimed at a $75,000 purse and $15,000 claimers ran for a $38,000 purse.

Granted, this is a bold experiment but if it works and the people bet in droves, it just may change the way racetracks do business in the future.

As far as the players involved, Garrett Gomez will be a new steady fixture as will Johnny Velazquez to go along with Jersey Joe Bravo and Elvis ‘is in the house’ Trujillo.

Trainers to watch will be Todd Pletcher, Mike Mitchell, the Dutrow boys, underrated Robert Hess Jr. Joe Orseno and Linda Rice.

With more runners, the complexion of the races may also alter from the speed conducive track Monmouth has been for years.

Watch runners from Tampa and runners that drop, because since they will be running for more money, the drop may not really be a drop.

Personally, I have something invested in this track.

I made my first bet at 8 through a friend of my father’s. Pops was a big shot at General Motors and once a year he got a perk at Monmouth Park and was allowed to utilize a special box. It was not just some chairs in the Turf Club but a fully staffed area for about a dozen at the very top of the track. To put it in perspective, Princess Grace Kelly owned the box next door.

All of dad’s friends would gather for drinks at the house before the track and one of his buddies asked me whom I liked in a particular race. After glancing at the sheet, I offered my opinion and broke the piggy bank for the $2 bucks needed.

About 10 hours later, the gang was home and I got $16.80 back and the rest as they say is history.

One thing I’ve learned is that this game is a work in progress and if you can’t improve or learn something every day, you are not paying attention. Bettors cannot just do their work in their room, go to the track, be ignorant about scratches, the weather or the environment at the track and expect to win. There are far too many variables that make up a race that need to be scrutinized.

How huge were the numbers at Monmouth opening day? A total of  7,611 more were on hand than on the 2009 opener and the total bet was through the roof.

Last year, just over $4.2 million was bet on opening day. Last Saturday, combined handle for the card was $9.357,444.

Hope some Shore things come through for bettors this season.



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