NJ’s Monmouth Park ready for racing but a fan favorite missing
OCEANPORT — Monmouth Park begins its 76th Thoroughbred racing season on Friday with most of the pandemic restrictions it had in place during the 2020 season lifted except for one fan favorite — and the threat of a jockey boycott.
Fans will be able to once again eat and drink in the stands and the picnic area will be available on a first come, first serve basis with group picnic areas also available to be booked through the park's group sales department, according to Bill Knauf, vice president business operations. But they will have to leave their coolers at home.
"Our security would need to go through each cooler and that procedure was not COVID friendly. Gov. Murphy’s announcement the other day does not allow us enough time to change that policy for this season. Next year it will be reevaluated," Knauf told New Jersey 101.5.
The park will be at full capacity for its first of four races during the Memorial Day weekend starting Friday with masks no longer required for those who are vaccinated. Social distancing protocols longer be in effect. Temperature checks will also no be taken upon entry into the park.
Hanging over the park's opening day is the threat of a boycott by jockeys including leading jockey "Jersey" Joe Bravo over New Jersey's new policy prohibiting use of a whip or riding crop on a horse during a race or while exercising. The park has announced a full lineup but is looking at the options of potential action against jockeys who pull out of a race at the last minute, which could cause cancellations.
John Heim, Monmouth's director of racing and racing secretary told the industry news website BloodHorse that any rider who pulls out of Friday's race will not be allowed to race for at least the entire weekend.