A deal to privatize Monmouth Park racetrack was upheld today by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, but is likely to face a court challenge by the losing bidder.

The ruling — made public only after it was reviewed by Gov. Chris Christie — affirms the authority’s decision late last year to hand over control of the historic racetrack in Oceanport to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

Attorneys for John Brunetti, the owner of the Hialeah Park racetrack in Florida who was seeking to operate Monmouth Park, promised an immediate court challenge, charging the decision created new loopholes for wielding political influence in New Jersey.

The association, which represents horse owners and trainers, said the decision gives them control of their own destiny.

"The horsemen now have a stake in their own future and a stake in making sure racing survives in New Jersey," said attorney Dennis Drazin, who led the association’s bid to take over Monmouth.

The sports authority has been working for over a year to privatize the 65-year-old track, under plans by the Christie administration to get New Jersey out of the horse-racing business.

With more than $20 million in annual losses from racing, the sports authority has already transferred the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford to New York horseman Jeff Gural.

Christie had threatened to shut down Monmouth Park after a deal with developer Morris Bailey unraveled, but an eleventh-hour agreement was reached with the Horsemen’s Association last year.


Information from: The Star-Ledger, http://www.nj.com