New Jersey Gov. Murphy Permits Horse Racing to Resume, Meadowlands to Restart Harness Races Friday

Posted on: June 2, 2020, 12:10h. 

Last updated on: June 2, 2020, 11:03h.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy gave horsemen in the Garden State a bit of good news Friday when he announced horse and harness racing can resume operations.

New Jersey racing
Horses compete in a qualifying race at the Meadowlands over the weekend. Live racing is set to resume at the track on Friday for the first time in nearly three months. (Image: Meadowlands Racing)

In fact, as Murphy gave his daily COVID-19 briefing Friday, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment had already started running qualifying races with a plan to resuming live racing at the famed track this Friday.

We’re able to take these steps because the data we are receiving every day through our hospitals and through testing are allowing us to determine dates,” Murphy said.

New Jersey is the latest state in the Mid-Atlantic region to allow racing to resume. Two weeks ago, New York officials approved the resumption of racing at state tracks, and Belmont Park will begin its spring-summer meet on Wednesday.

Maryland leaders allowed the Maryland Jockey Club to resume racing over the weekend and action took place at Laurel Park.

Fans will not be permitted at any of the state’s tracks. But similar to other states, bettors will be able to use mobile applications to make wagers and watch races through online streams.

Meadowlands Return Big for Harness Racing

The return of horses at the Meadowlands, which stopped its meet on March 13 because of coronavirus, is big news for harness racing. With a US handle of more than $200 million in 2019, the track that’s just five miles across from New York City accounted for more than 15 percent of all harness racing wagers in the country last year.

Racing will take place every Friday and Saturday for the rest of the year, with the exception of the last three weeks in August and the last weekend in September.

“The calendar may still be fluid, as changes are made at other tracks regarding their intentions. But any move would likely be only from Friday to Saturday,” track officials announced last week.

The order also applies to Freehold Raceway, a harness track in central New Jersey. Billed as the nation’s oldest harness track, the nearly 170-year-old venue is scheduled to be dark through late August.

Unlike thoroughbred racing, which had a few tracks remain in operation during the COVID-19 emergency, harness racing went completely dark for weeks after California officials forced the closure of Cal Expo in Sacramento in early April.

Besides the Meadowlands, five other US harness tracks will offer live racing this week.

Monmouth Park to Start in July

Monmouth Park, the state’s thoroughbred track, had previously announced plans to start its meet on July 3.

In an email Friday to, Dennis Drazin, president of Darby Development, said that schedule would remain the same. Darby operates Monmouth Park for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

The first horses arrived at the Oceanport track for training on Monday.

Monmouth’s meet was originally set to start last month. With the changes to the Triple Crown schedule, the July 18 Haskell Invitational, the track’s premier race, will now serve as a qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby. The winner will earn 100 qualifying points for the Sept. 5 Derby.

Drazin also tells that plans remain in the works for Monmouth Park to offer fixed odds racing as well when the meet begins.