Monmouth Park Can Open With Fans

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Monmouth Park | Sarah Andrew

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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that, as of July 2, the state's casinos and racetracks can open at 25% capacity.

Dennis Drazin, who heads the operations team at Monmouth Park, said that while some details still need to be clarified by Murphy's office, he is of the belief that Monmouth can allow as many as 15,000 people a day at the races. Drazin bases that number on Monmouth being able to accommodate as many as 60,000 fans, roughly the number that attended American Pharoah's GI Haskell Invitational in 2015.

“I think this is huge,” Drazin said. “This is a great development for us now.”

Monmouth was already scheduled to begin its abbreviated meet July 3.

Should Monmouth be allowed to have 15,000 people in attendance that would mean that, for most days, no one will be turned away.

The only day during the meet where the demand would likely exceed 15,000 people is Haskell Day. The race usually draws about 40,000 people. Drazin thinks that this year there may only be about 15,000 people who want to see the race in person.

“How many people are not going to want to come simply because they are afraid to come out?” he said. “I think we will lose a lot of our customers anyway. People aren't ready to venture out yet. I think we will be ok with 15,000.”

Drazin said if it becomes clear that more than 15,000 people want to attend the race, he would reach out to the governor's office and seek a one-day exception to the 25% rule. Monmouth had planned not to charge for admission or parking throughout the meet, but Drazin said an exception could be made for Haskell Day in an effort to keep the crowd down.

Monmouth experimented with having fans in the building last Saturday as it opened up the Lady's Secret Cafe and let fans come in and watch and wager on the GI Belmont S. Drazin said that was permissible because the cafe is considered an outdoor dining area. Drazin also said that, starting this Friday, owners will be allowed in an area near the top of the stretch and will be able to watch their horses train from there.

Murphy said that face masks will be mandatory in the Atlantic City casinos. It is likely the same protocols will be in place at the state's racetracks.

“If any visitor refuses to comply with these simple safeguards, you will be escorted out of the casino,” the governor said. “We are not going to tolerate any knuckleheads trying to ruin it for those who want to enjoy themselves responsibly and those who need to get back to work, especially if those knuckleheads could be spreading Covid.”

Drazin said it is imperative that patrons, horsemen and frontside employees strictly follow all the guidelines Murphy imposes.

“There will be further guidelines coming out over the next several days,” he said. “There will certainly be social distancing and mask requirements. We plan to screen people before they can enter the track. Whatever the governor says we have to do, that's what we will do. I do not think that the governor will let us stay open if we don't make sure that there is social distancing. If we don't do our job, frankly, he should tell us we have a problem. We need to do our job and we need to keep people six feet apart when they are standing in line and six feet apart when watching races. We just can't let people get carried away.”

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