For many, news about a resurgence in COVID-9 infections across the world is putting somewhat of a damper on year-end celebrations. But Monmouth Park officials this month have released a series of updates, revivals, and innovations for the 2022 summer meet that offer an enticing vision of a post-pandemic world.
For instance, the longstanding tradition of “bring-your-own-cooler,” suspended for the 2020 and 2021 meets, is coming back next year. Visitors will be permitted to bring a cooler no larger than 15 X 25 inches through the picnic admission gate.
Track operator Dennis Drazin has noted that the New Jersey Division of Alcohol Beverage Control began cracking down in 2018 after reports of underage drinking at the Oceanport track. So with security needed to focus on monitoring all arriving visitors during the pandemic, the cooler ban was instituted. But an expectation of better days ahead led to the announcement that coolers are back in fashion at the track.
Free parking and festivals
Each race date will still feature free parking as per 2021, but general admission will be $6 — with an end to an additional fee to access the clubhouse area. Also, Friday’s eight-race cards — taking place in June, July, August, and Labor Day Saturday, Sept. 2 — will feature a first post of 2 p.m.
Opening Day will be what track officials call “The Shore’s Biggest Derby Party” on May 7, amid the excitement of the Kentucky Derby that day at Churchill Downs. The following day will feature Mother’s Day-themed “attractions to be named later.”
Then comes the Jersey Shore Food Truck Festival on May 28-30 of Memorial Day weekend, followed in subsequent weekends by an Irish Festival, a Cooler Giveaway Day, Father’s Day, and a “Win, Wine & Dine Festival” on June 25-26.
Other themed dates include the July 10 “Classic Cars & Oldies Day,” as well as a July 30-31 Italian Festival and an Aug. 13-14 “Surf and Turf Weekend.”
The May schedule calls for races on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, while racing peaks in August with both Friday and Monday cards as well. After Labor Day weekend, Saturday cards on Sept. 10 and Sept. 17 close out the 2022 season.
Fixed-odds wagering also coming
New Jersey racing regulators have approved Monmouth Park to offer fixed-odds wagering, and that new wrinkle may come well before The Run for the Roses and Monmouth Park’s opening race date in May.
Drazin has said that he hopes to begin offering some win, place, and show wagers at the track beginning in January, with races simulcast from around the country. Unlike traditional parimutuel wagers, sports bettors will be able to lock in exact odds at the moment the bet is placed — eliminating sometimes frustrating variations in the odds that can continue up to moments after the race has begun as last-minute bets are computed.
Meadowlands Racetrack officials, meanwhile, have set Jan. 1 as the long-awaited launch of a new, upgraded website.
“Our current website is now nearly 17 years old and due to a number of technological advancements, the site has become outdated and has started to experience problems behind the scenes which need to be addressed,” a note on the current site informs readers.
The new site is promised to be “mobile responsive.”
The Big M’s 2022 calendar also has been finalized, with Friday/Saturday evening racing every weekend from Jan. 7-8 through June 24-25. Thursday cards also are in play on June 30 and July 7.
After three more Friday/Saturday cards in July, there is racing on Thursday, Aug. 4, plus Friday and then Hambletonian Day afternoon racing on Aug. 6. That leads into a three-weekend hiatus, followed by racing on the first three weekends in September plus a special Thursday, Sept. 8 card.
The track again goes dark after that, resuming racing on Fridays and Saturdays in November and December except for Christmas weekend. Dec. 1 and 8 will feature two more Thursday cards.
Freehold Raceway also sets 2022 dates
After a rare hiatus this week, Friday and Saturday afternoon racing resumes at Freehold Raceway on Dec. 31 and on New Year’s Day.
A Thursday-Friday-Saturday schedule goes into effect for the rest of January, before Thursday cards are ended. A two-day slate continues through Memorial Day weekend, followed by a nearly summer-long hiatus that finally ends on Aug. 26-27.
That weekend sets the stage for Friday/Saturday racing for the rest of 2022.
Photo: Peter Ackerman/USA TODAY