News & Barn notes

Monmouth Park Shows Solid Gains In Handle As Meet Comes To A Close; Paco Lopez And Claudio Gonzalez Capture Titles

September 18, 2022

Monmouth Park showed a 25.2 percent increase in total handle and a 16.07 percent increase in on-track handle while Paco Lopez won his ninth riding title and Claudio Gonzalez earned his first training title as the Jersey Shore track closed out its 77th season on Sunday.

Total handle was $217,243,199 this summer compared to $173,511,611 a year ago. On track handle was $17,753,794 in 2022 compared to $15,216,978 a year ago.

Total attendance was 368,101.

Monmouth ran 60 live days of racing this year compared to 55 a year ago.

“We’re extremely pleased by the increase in handle for the 2022 meet, which we feel is a reflection of the quality of the product we were able to offer and the commitment from the horsemen to our program,” said Dennis Drazin, Chairman and CEO of Darby Development LLC, operators of Monmouth Park. “The numbers show the strength of our product and the willingness of bettors to wager on it.

“From start to finish this was a meet everyone involved with Monmouth Park can be proud of, highlighted by Cyberknife’s track record performance in the Haskell Stakes. As we look forward to 2023, we want Monmouth Park fans and horsemen to know they can count on our ongoing commitment with additional facilities upgrades and to the highest quality of racing we can offer.”

Thoroughbred racing in New Jersey now shifts to the Meadowlands Racetrack for a nine-day all-turf meet that gets underway Friday, Sept. 23, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 22. First race post time throughout the meet will be 7 p.m.

Lopez, 36, easily outdistanced the competition with 91 winners. His nine riding titles leave him behind only Joe Bravo’s 13 for the most in Monmouth Park history.

He punctuated his latest title with a four-winner day on Sunday.

“Every title for anyone I think is special,” said Lopez. “It’s going to be hard to catch Joe Bravo but I’m going to try. It’s not going to be easy.

“But I am going to enjoy this one. Winning the title at Monmouth Park is always special for me. I’m very grateful to all of the owners and trainers who put me up on horses and helped me have success.”

Gonzalez, who started his career at Monmouth Park as an assistant to Ben Perkins, Jr. in 1995, owns 16 training titles at Laurel and two at Pimlico. But winning one at Monmouth Park, he said, is particularly meaningful.

He finished with 32 winners, three better than runner-up Kelly Breen.

“I started here. I still feel like this is my home,” Gonzalez said of Monmouth Park. “I feel this one is special for me. I really wanted to win the title here this year, especially after we got off to such a fast start. And we got it. I’m very happy. I have a great crew of workers. Any time you win a title it’s a team effort.”

Leading owner wound up as a four-way tie with eight winners between Bergen Racing, Dave Gruskos, Monster Racing and the partnership of Joseph and Gayle Ioa and Chuck Spina.

The six-race Meadowlands cards will be conducted every Friday and Saturday from Sept. 23 through Oct. 22 with the exception of Saturday, Oct. 15, when Far Hills conducts its 101st steeplechase meet.

The $75,000 Honey Bee Stakes on Friday, Oct. 7, and the $75,000 Born to Run Stakes on Friday, Oct. 14, highlight the abbreviated Meadowlands meet.