News & Barn notes

Dini Horses Are First Arrivals As Monmouth Park Stable Area Opens In Advance of May 11 Opener

April 27, 2024

Mike Dini wasn’t necessarily trying be first in line when the Monmouth Park stable area opened this morning but the veteran trainer said the fact that a van transporting nine of his horses led all arrivals is something he hopes is a sign of things to come this summer.

Monmouth Park’s 79th season of Thoroughbred racing gets underway on Saturday, May 11.

Phaleonopsis, a 2-year-old filly, was the first horse to be off-loaded onto the backstretch, with the expectation that the barn area will be close to its 1,500-horse capacity as more vans ship in for the 51-day meet. Dini’s horses came from Tampa Bay Downs.

“I have a feeling I’ll have a good year at Monmouth Park,” said Dini, who will eventually have between 55 and 60 horses on the grounds. “I got off to a slow start last year and never fully recovered. I think I had 13 horses claimed from me. A couple of them got in trouble and I never got to run them back.

“But I think I finished strong. I’ve got a nice mix of horses this year between turf and dirt horses. One of them, Frosty O Toole (second in the Nellie Morse Stakes at Laurel Park on Feb. 17), is a stakes horse. We’ll see how some of the others develop.”

Dini’s van was quickly followed by one transporting horses from Florida for trainer Kent Sweezey and another with horses for Chuck Spina, a training fixture at Monmouth Park since 1971.

The track will be open for training on Tuesday.

“The thing you never know for sure is what the competition will be like and it’s always tough at Monmouth Park,” said Dini, who won 10 races at last year’s meet. “But you get used to that. In maiden races at Tampa we run against horses from Chad Brown, Christophe Clement and Shug McGaughey. So you get used to facing that level of competition.”

Claudio Gonzalez, expected to eventually have 70 horses on the grounds, will be seeking his third straight training title. Brown, Pletcher, McGaughey, Kelly Breen, Jorge Delgado, Gregg Sacco, Dan Ward, Wayne Potts and Lindsay Schultz will all be well represented at the meet.

Prominent newcomers to the training ranks include Wesley Ward, Saffie Joseph and Mike Maker. Veteran Joe Orseno will have 45 stalls as well.

Monmouth Park will feature 48 stakes races worth $8.05 million over the course of a meet that runs through Sept. 15, with the highlight being the $1 million, Grade 1 Haskell Stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday, July 20.

First race post time Saturdays, Sundays and holidays is 12:50 p.m. When Friday racing starts on June 21 first race post time those days will be 2 p.m.

Parking is free throughout the meet.