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Potential Haskell field highlights exciting new season at Monmouth Park

Maximum Security may not have won the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

But on July 20 at Monmouth Park, the horse should at least have a chance for a great consolation prize in his backyard.

His trainer, Monmouth’s own Jason Servis, wants to run Maximum Security in the Oceanport racetrack’s biggest annual event— the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Invitational, which is set for the second to last Saturday in July.

Maximum Security returned to Monmouth Park on May 7 after achieving international fame at “The Run for the Roses” in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. He crossed the finish line in first but was later disqualified for an interference penalty, a first in the event’s 145-year history.

Maximum Security’s owners, Gary and Mary West, appealed the ruling but were denied by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

On May 6, the Wests announced that Maximum Security would skip the next event in horse racing’s Triple Crown, The Preakness Stakes that will be staged in Baltimore on May 18. Based on that decision, it was widely believed that Servis was saving Maximum Security for the big race on his home track, the Haskell.

Monmouth Park’s horse racing season opened on May 4. Three days later, on May 7 at the season opening press conference in the park’s turf club, Monmouth Park Racetrack operator Dennis Drazin confirmed this rumor.

“Jason wants to run Maximum Security in the Haskell,” Drazin announced.

“Had he won the Derby and not been disqualified, he would have been compelled to go on to the Preakness,” Drazin added. “But now there’s not a Triple Crown on the line, so the right thing to do is to focus on the bigger picture.”

That bigger picture includes a series of Grade 1 races scheduled for later in the year, like the Haskell, The Travers Stakes on Aug. 24 in Saratoga Springs and The Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 1 in California.

“This horse could go on and win all those races and be a champion three year old,” Drazin said.

It looks like Maximum Security will run in the Haskell. He also may not be the only famous horse in the event.

Omaha Beach, the Kentucky Derby’s original favorite, pulled out of “The Run for the Roses” a few days before the race. His trainer, California-based Richard Mandella, told the Associated Press that the horse had a breathing condition that required surgery.

He also said that while Omaha Beach would have to miss the Triple Crown races, the horse may come back for the big events later on the calendar, including the Haskell.

“Amongst the possibilities on his schedule is our race,” Drazin confirmed. “We have some of the top horses in the country pointing to our race.”

The potential Haskell field was the biggest topic of conversation at the May 7 press conference, but it was hardly the only big topic.

Behind a thriving, one-year old sports book and an annual subsidy from the state of New Jersey for $20 million, Monmouth Park is on the verge of perhaps its biggest campaign in years.

Drazin said the average race purse will be $500,000 in 2019, up from $325,000-330,000 in 2018. The operator expects bigger purses to attract better horses, bigger crowds and more state funding in the future.

He also views the sports betting-horse racing combination as a sustainable business model.

“We’re trying to cross market sports betting and racing,” Drazin said. “We want to preserve racing at Monmouth for years to come.”

The 148-year old park’s 2019 season will also include a full schedule of family and cultural festivals.

The schedule features the  Jersey Shore Food Truck Festival from May 25-27, the 49th Annual Irish Festival on June 9 and the Italian Festival & Wine Tasting on Aug. 3.

But the Haskell, as always, will be Monmouth’s signature event. And this year, it may be even bigger than usual.


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