Memorial Day weekend not only marks the unofficial start of summer, it means the beginning of the 2021 Monmouth Park racing season!
Opening day at “The Shore’s Greatest Stretch” is Friday, May 28, with a first post time of 5 p.m. ET. Monmouth opened for business in 1946 in Oceanport, N.J., and since then has established itself as one of the top summertime tracks on the East Coast.
Here’s what you need to know about playing the races at the Jersey Shore.
Monmouth Park features a one-mile dirt main track, with a seven-furlong turf course on the inside. The dirt track has a chute on the backstretch to accommodate sprints of up to six furlongs (three-quarters of a mile).
The stretch measures 990 feet from the end of the turn to the finish line, making it slightly shorter than most racetracks. The surface is composed primarily of sand, with some loam mixed in. It measures approximately 90-feet wide.
The turf course features two diagonal chutes: one to accommodate sprints up to 5 ½ furlongs (eleven-sixteenths of a mile), while the other one is for routes up to 1 ⅛ miles. The surface is composed of bluegrass and Manhattan 2 rye grass.
WHEN THEY RACE
Live racing is held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday racing begins at 5 p.m. ET, while racing on Saturdays and Sundays kicks off at 12:15 p.m. ET. Racing will also be conducted on Memorial Day, May 31, and Labor Day, Sept. 6, with the first race starting at 12:15 p.m. ET.
After Labor Day, racing moves to a Saturday and Sunday-only schedule until closing day, Sept. 26.
Monmouth offers the standard assortment of win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta wagering on all races with a sufficient amount of betting interests. There also are “rolling” doubles and Pick 3s, with a $1 minimum bet and a 50-cent minimum bet, respectively.
Friday cards feature six races. Those programs feature one 50-cent Pick 5, starting in Race 2, a 50-cent Pick 4, beginning in Race 3, and the “Jersey Shore 6” jackpot bet, which includes the entire six-race card.
On Saturday and Sunday cards, which can feature as many as 14 races, there are two Pick 5s. The early Pick 5 is on the first five races of the day, while the late Pick 5 is on the last five races. There are three Pick 4s on cards of at least 13 races. The early Pick 4 starts in Race 2, the middle Pick 4 begins in Race 6, while the late Pick 4 consists of the last four races. The Jersey Shore 6 is on the last six races of the card.
Note that, per New Jersey law, carryovers automatically move from one pool of that wager to the next. For example, if no one hits that day’s early pick 5, the carryover money goes into the late Pick 5 that same day. If no one hits the late Pick 5, the carryover is on the early Pick 5 on the next racing day.
JOCKEYS AND TRAINERS TO WATCH
The dominant jockey at Monmouth is Paco Lopez. He’s won the riding title at Monmouth seven times, including each of the last three years. In 2020, he won 55 races from 218 mounts at Monmouth according to Equineline statistics, for a very impressive 25% win rate. Any horse ridden by Lopez is worth considering this summer.
Ferrin Peterson had a breakout season in the saddle last summer. She finished second to Lopez in the standings, winning 42 races from 233 mounts during the meet that ran from May 2 to Sept. 27, 2020. She’ll look to once again make her presence felt at the upcoming meet.
Kelly Breen has been the leading trainer three times at Monmouth. He captured his most recent training title last year, winning 32 races from 117 starters during the meet that ran from May 2 to Sept. 27, 2020.
Although based in New York, Chad Brown is just as dangerous at Monmouth. From 40 starters during the aforementioned May 2 to Sept. 27, 2020, meet, Brown won 15 races, good for a 38% win percentage and third place in the standings.
Monmouth has a reputation as a speed-favoring track, and that reputation is well-deserved. Through the first 10 days of last year’s meet, there were 74 races on dirt and 22 horses led from start to finish, while another 18 were in second after the opening quarter-mile. That means that 54.4% of all winners were on or near the pace in the early stages. Only nine winners were five or more lengths back after the opening quarter-mile. Closers did as well in sprints as in routes.
The grass was not as speed-favoring over the same sample size. In 31 races, there were six gate-to-wire winners, for a 19.3% strike rate. Nine winners were five lengths or more off the pace after the first quarter-mile. This suggests that horses can win from anywhere on that surface, and that early speed is not as big an advantage as it is on dirt.
In the first month or so of the season, many horses are making their first start after long layoffs. In the first 90 races of the 2019 season, 19 of them were won by horses making their first start of the calendar year. The winning percentage was better on grass, where almost a third of races were won by horses running that year for the first time. By contrast, horses coming off long breaks won only 14.2% of dirt races.
MAJOR RACE DAYS
The biggest day of the Monmouth racing season is July 17. The Grade 1 TVG.com Haskell Stakes will be held that day, along with the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes and three other graded stakes races. The major prep for the Haskell, the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes, will be held June 13.
Aug. 29 is the New Jersey Thoroughbred Racing Festival, highlighting some of the best New Jersey-bred horses. There will be three stakes races for New Jersey-breds on that program. A few weeks ago, the New Jersey breeding program was thrust into the national spotlight when Chub Wagon, a Pennsylvania-bred by New Jersey stallion Hey Chub, won the Skipat Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Stakes day.
WHERE TO WATCH
Racing from Monmouth Park will be shown on TVG every race day.
NBC will cover the Haskell from 5-6 p.m. ET on July 17. The Haskell itself is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. that day.