What’s Going on with Monmouth Park?

July 14, 2017

It seems no matter how hard we try not to, racing always manages to shoot itself  in the foot, and the most loyal of fans and bettors get hurt in the process. I’m of the opinion and have been writing about it for years now, that a lot of this can be solved by having a central governing body, a commissioner, and uniformity in rules applied and enforced fairly. Those calls for the most part have fallen on deaf ears or lame excuses. A popular one is “well we race in multi states so that won’t work.” Interesting it works in other sports that are multi state, even multi country.

When you look around at the arguments surrounding Lasix, and at the same time see major drugs like epogen or EPO barely get a mention and fly well under the average fan’s radar, you just have to shake your head and realize it all comes down to money, much like the NFL and most other sports and businesses. We are still behind in our concussion protocols despite the best efforts of The Jockeys’ Guild, and we can’t even stagger the post times of major races at different tracks. TVG doesn’t quite get that the split screen option they love stops you from seeing both races, let alone letting you see one. Major issues, minor issues, we have them all, and just can’t seem to address any of them properly with uniformity, or for the benefit of the game, including the bettors.

Today we’ll talk about two recent issues, both easy fixes with even the smallest amount of common sense, but both “muffed” again by track management. Blame who you will but a fish stinks from the head.

We all know Monmouth is a far cry from what it once was. We can’t blame the neighborhood like people like to do with Hialeah and Pimlico. Monmouth is on the Jersey Shore in resort country. People like to go there yet the track fights for survival. Some of that is governmental for sure, but some is bad business. Remember that fish. You would think Monmouth would do whatever they could within reason not to alienate any of their remaining fans and bettors. Apparently they see it differently and I hate to say, that type of vision leads to exactly where Monmouth finds itself today. Take care of your customer or someone else will. Every time.

Back in late May, a longtime Monmouth patron went to enjoy a day at his home track. Who it is is of minor importance. What is important is they are a long time Monmouth patron in good standing. The patron contacted us in desperation and forwarded us the attached letter which we print in part. We left out the last paragraph with the patron’s name and his demand for $750 in compensation. While we did not independently investigate the incident, we have no reason to not believe it is an accurate account of what transpired. If it isn’t, Monmouth Park is invited to respond accordingly.

June 2nd, 2017
Monmouth Park Racetrack
Robert J Kulina, Bill Anderson, Bill Knauf
175 Oceanport Ave, Oceanport, NJ 07757
Dear Mr. Kulina, Anderson and Knauf,
I have made three attempts to contact you via phone, leaving voicemails and my phone number
with Mr. Heims, Mr. Brad Thomas, Ms. Laura and Mr. Kulina, during the week of May 30th
through June 2nd. 
Not one call has been returned. Please review the demand letter, synopsis
and summary below.
On May 27th, 2017, I came to Monmouth Park Racetrack. Seconds before Race 3, while using
pari-mutuel computer number 139 with a voucher totaling $350.70, 1 man walked to the left
pari-mutuel computer 138, while another man reached to my pari-mutuel computer 139, hit final
on my computer, grabbed the voucher and ran. I followed the man outside and approached him
and he laughed in my face about stealing the voucher or giving it back. I went back to the pari-
mutuel phone while keeping eyes on him, and called for pari-mutuel customer service. A pari-
mutuel customer service agent came in about 5 minutes. I relayed to him what happened,
showed him where the man was moving too, and asked him to immediately cancel the voucher.
I had trifecta vouchers in my hand (3 at $18 each) printed seconds before the theft, therefore I
had the voucher number and the exact time the voucher was taken. His response was there is
absolutely nothing they could do, despite all the information I provided. He called his supervisor
and told me to wait while he followed the man. His supervisor Joe came with another pari-
mutuel customer service representative and both said there is nothing they could do and I would
need to go to the information desk to request security while they kept eyes on the thief.
I went to the information desk and spoke to pari-mutuel supervisor Laura, who I am very close
with over the last 21 years of attending Monmouth Park Racetrack. Laura called for security,
and made several calls in search for the stolen voucher. Security Manager Jerry Russomanno
arrived after about 10 minutes and had me guide him to the pari-mutuel computer, and to where
the pari-mutuel customer service representatives were watching the thief, after I explained to
him what happened. When we arrived outside, the pari-mutuel representatives were gone, as
was the thief. The man that approached my left shoulder using computer #138 at the same time,
was sitting in a chair with his son and his son’s fiancé. I asked security manager Jerry
Russomanno to simply review the camera tapes, and speak with the 6 witnesses that watched
this happen, that were still currently standing at the pari-mutuel computers. Security manager
Jerry Russomanno said that there are no cameras on any of the pari-mutuel computers in the
entire park, so there is no camera to review and it would be my word vs. the thief’s, and even if
we find the thief, he must have the ticket on him for anything to be done, despite all the
documentation of proof I had on the theft.
We walked back to pari-mutuel supervisor Laura, she stated after several calls, she tracked
down the voucher and the thief cashed it in the mezzanine. I asked both security manager Jerry
Russomanno and pari-mutuel Supervisor Laura if they could review the cameras where the
ticket was cashed, as this is a teller computer, not a pari-mutuel computer and security manager
Jerry Russomanno stated that he shouldn’t be telling me this, but there are also no cameras at
the pari-mutuel tellers in the mezzanine so we have no way of catching the thief or finding out
who he is. I asked if we could get the police involved as this is a theft and security manager
Jerry Russomanno called the Oceanport, NJ Police.
When the Oceanport, NJ Police arrived, they asked security manager Jerry Russomanno if
there were cameras that they could review, he again stated to officer Gaita that there were no
cameras to review. Officer Gaita #497 told me that If I wanted to move forward that I would have
to track down the thief throughout the 20,000+ people on hand at Monmouth Park for the food
truck festival. Officer Gaita #497 and security manager Jerry Russomanno, also approached the
man in the chairs that walked to my left, and they both reported back that this man was with his
son and son’s fiancé and due to “who he was with” he could not possible be the cause of wrong
doing. However, he refused to provide any information, vouchers or cash on hand.
In conclusion, despite being one of the biggest supporters of Monmouth Park Racetrack over
the last 21 years, I was robbed of $350.70, lost 3 hours of my time with my ill father and all
involved were unable to help in any type of way outside of pari-mutuel supervisor Laura, who
did in fact, do everything she could to try and track down the voucher and thief. Despite voucher
proof, exact time proof via pari-mutuel phone with pari-mutuel security while the thief cashed the
ticket, 6 witnesses, 3 pari-mutuel customer service reps following the thief and additional trifecta
voucher proof of theft, I was told oh well, it happens.
There were no cameras to prove anything was done, which is a complete negligence in security
that is considered a family friendly park that also involve wagers of an excessive amount of
money throughout each day. No customer knows that there are no camera’s while thousands, to
hundreds of thousands of dollars are being handled. I am sure many Monmouth Park Racetrack
customers would be in fear of handling any money, at any pari-mutuel computers going forward.
This thief also now has the confidence to go to anyone’s computer, hit final, steal the voucher at
any point and time and run, and there is still no security in place to catch him.

Now again this is only one side of the story. Monmouth’s position is unknown. What is known is this is not an isolated incident at any racetrack. I have seen it happen at Belmont and Oaklawn Park personally. Both facilities put stops on the voucher and informed the party who in those cases wrongfully had it, if they didn’t return it they would be barred from the premises. Both times the voucher was returned. You’d think Monmouth Park, especially in their current state would place a tad more value on a long standing customer. Providing a safe place to play I’d say is paramount to any rise in attendance.

Monmouth certainly could have used one of those catch all rules, but then again neither did Santa Anita with the first time gelding incident. According to the patron Monmouth offered him a free admission pass and a T-Shirt or something. Ouch.

In June at Santa Anita, the stewards dropped the ball, and failed to use one of those catch all rules that are in place, or so we are led to believe for just these types of circumstances. Fly to Mars trained by Peter Miller was in the last race on a Saturday back in June. One bettor was alive to the whole Pick 6 pool with him. That pool was bringing a $898,568.00 payout. Fly to Mars was a first time gelding, but it was not announced prior to the Pick 6 wagering. Did the bettor alive to him know? That we may never know. It was announced about 20 minutes to post and the horse was allowed to run, and run he did, winning the race and over 800k for the bettor who had him.

Now, as bettors we all know there are some people who put a lot of weight on first time geldings, “the ultimate equipment change.” There are also some bettors who always use first time geldings. Peter Miller claimed it was an oversight the stewards were not notified and it very well may have been. He faces a possible $1000 fine.

The bottom line is the horse should not have been allowed to race. While the bettor alive would have been upset, he was only one, and he could not claim inclusion because he knew he was a first time gelding. The stewards said they could find no rule from the CHRB allowing them to scratch the horse, but what about all those best interests of racing catch all rules? Did none of them apply?

High Five

NYRA or the New York Racing Association, a late Pick 5 finally. Hopefully they will open the bet up to all ADW’s and simulcast tracks which would increase the handle significantly, but hey if you have to wager with NYRA Bets to do it, you could have bigger problems.

Low Five

Unfortunately NYRA again, the new logo is a thumbs down.

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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“I’m Umberto Rispoli and I read Past the Wire” Umberto Rispoli, Champion Jockey

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