OCEANPORT - After undergoing millions of dollars of repairs following Hurricane Sandy, Monmouth Park will kick off its thoroughbred season today with a 12-race card and a showcase of local businesses to show the Jersey Shore is alive and kicking.
The meet will be the first at the track since the superstorm struck in late October, devastating homes and businesses along the eastern seaboard. Nine barns at the track were flooded and had to be rebuilt, with total repairs costing roughly $5.7 million.
In the wake of one of the costliest hurricanes in U.S. history, the track served as a temporary home to more than 2,000 displaced people and as a parking lot for more than 1,000 utility trucks and crews brought in to re-establish service.
The Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau will showcase more than 40 businesses participating in the opening-day ceremonies that will include a car show, hot air balloons, live music and food vendors.
"Monmouth Park is thriving," said Dennis Drazin, who is working with Darby Development and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the operators of the track. "We are alive, and we expect a great season of racing."
The featured race on opening day will be the $75,000 Decathlon Stakes for 3-year-olds and up, which drew a field of eight, including E. Paul Robsham Stables' Travelin Man.
Travelin Man, a 5-year-old, captured the Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream on March 30 in his last start. The Todd Pletcher-trainee has won five of his 13 outings. Thirteen-time Monmouth riding champion Joe Bravo is listed to ride.
A six-furlong dash, the Decathlon is the first of this year's stakes events, which includes 16 graded stakes. As always, the centerpiece of Monmouth's summer will be the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational, which has its 46th running July 28.
Monmouth's Grade 1 turf race, the $500,000 United Nations Stakes, will be the highlight of the Fourth of July weekend when it's renewed July 6.
The meet will run here through Oct. 6. Thoroughbred racing will then shift to the Meadowlands for 10 all-turf cards over the next month..
Monmouth Park gates will open at 11:30 a.m. and first post is set for 12:50 p.m. every day except Haskell Day.