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Freehold Raceway fans happy that live racing is back

By Tim Morris

With his beach chair in place near the home stretch of Freehold Raceway and race program on his lap, Alan Small was right at home.

Freehold Raceway reopened for live racing Aug. 26 and it couldn’t come soon enough for racing fans like Small.

“I like being at the track, being out in the air,” the retired Old Bridge resident said. “I like watching [standardbreds] live.”

Small admits that he loves the gambling part as well.

During the months that Freehold was not open for live racing, Small went to the Meadowlands a few time but not steadily. He couldn’t wait for Freehold to open because it’s local and it’s daytime, he said.

Freehold Raceway, which has roots dating back to 1853, is the nation’s oldest continually operating daytime racetrack. Its half-mile track is also one of the swiftest in the nation.

Aldo Iavarone, also of Old Bridge, is a regular at the track.

“When I retired, I needed something to do,” he said. “I enjoy it; it’s a form of entertainment.

“I enjoy the horses. They’re beautiful animals.”

He also likes cashing in a winning ticket.

“The thrill of winning,” he said with a smile.

George Handy from Sayreville has been following Freehold Raceway for years. He brings his wife, Debra, to the races. He wishes there were more living racing dates at Freehold.

“I like the competition of the horses and drivers,” he said

A patron from Keyport couldn’t wait for Freehold to reopen for racing.

“I missed it for three months,” he said.

He prefers harness racing to the thoroughbreds because, he said, “They’re more consistent.”

Along with the thrill of seeing live racing again, many of the fans expressed their concern for the racetrack’s and horse racing’s futures. They talked about how Freehold and the Meadowlands have lost ground to neighboring states of New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Those states have slot machines at their tracks, which puts money back into horse racing. As a result, they are able to offer much higher purses than Freehold and the Meadowlands, drawing the better horses and drivers.

Both purses and race dates are down at the New Jersey tracks because of that competition. It has also impacted horse racing farms in the area with many, such as Showplace Farms in Millstone, having closed in recent years.

The fans hope that the referendum on casinos in North Jersey that will be put before voters in November will pass. That could go a long way toward saving Freehold and the horse racing business in the state.

On the track, Freehold’s summer/fall meet opened with a bang, as an 18-1 long shot, Lazy Bones, won the first race with Jim Marohn Jr. in the bike.

It was a good day for Marohn, who won three races on the card.

Freehold, which will be open for live racing Thursdays though Saturdays until Dec. 10, will have a special Labor Day program Sept. 5.

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