While the 2021 meet at Monmouth Park is less than three weeks old, several years worth of drama has already been packed in at the Jersey Shore staple this spring, and Wednesday morning, the track's chairman and CEO Dennis Drazin joined the TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland to discuss it all. Calling in via Zoom as the Green Group Guest of the Week, Drazin talked about the fraught implementation of the New Jersey Racing Commission's whip ban, the latest attempt by the Jockeys' Guild to put pressure on Monmouth over it, the forthcoming experiment with fixed-odds wagering and more.
“I think it was a cheap shot on the part of the [Jockeys'] Guild to punish our jockeys that are riding at Monmouth Park for actions which were beyond their control and beyond Monmouth Park's control,” Drazin said of a Guild announcement that it will no longer insure Monmouth jockeys starting July 1. “About two years ago, there was a proposal for a rule change. The racing commission reached out to the industry to get some preliminary guidance. I remember very clearly going to the first meeting at Monmouth Park where the industry was invited by public notice. The Guild was there on behalf of the jockeys. As an attorney, I personally would have had a dozen jockeys in the first row to give their position on the rule and educate the commissioners. The Guild didn't do that. They didn't present any jockeys at those hearings. Now what they've done is punish riders for choosing to ride at Monmouth by taking away their coverages. I don't think that's the right course of action, and the Guild ought to think better of the actions that they took in writing that letter. I think they will receive notice from legal counsel. I think they're looking at litigation going forward if they continue this.”
While the first two weeks of the Monmouth meet were poor from a handle standpoint, likely in part due to rainy weather, the betting numbers improved drastically in its third week. Monmouth will have a chance to build on that momentum when it becomes the first major American track to implement a fixed-odds wagering system in the next month.
“We will definitely have fixed-odds wagering by the [July 17] Haskell because there is a pilot program right here right now that permits fixed-odds wagering on Grade I races as long as you conform to the Interstate Horse Racing Act,” Drazin explained. “It was offered on the Haskell in 2018 and 2019. The broader position, and this is something the whole country is looking at, is fixed-odds wagering is something we think is good for Thoroughbred racing and something that will be well received. But the racetracks around the country and the horsemen's groups that I have dialog with trying to study this, everybody's uncomfortable. Everybody tries to think, what's the right math? What's the right dollar amount, what's the right takeout? What's the impact of cannibalization? There are a lot of conversations going on trying to figure out how to do this correctly. And if everybody thinks about it forever and doesn't pull the trigger, we're never going to move it forward.”
Elsewhere on the show, which is also sponsored by West Point Thoroughbreds, the Minnesota Racehorse Engagement Project and Legacy Bloodstock, the writers reacted to the latest lawsuit from Bob Bafffert's legal team, broke down the Royal Ascot meeting from all angles and wondered what the news of The Stronach Group's potential sale of assets could mean for racing. Click here to watch the podcast; click here for the audio-only version or find it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.