Live racing at Atlantic City Race Course continues this week

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acrc Bill LeConey/Jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. rides aboard Back Away in the paddock walking ring before the sixth race of last Thursday’s first day of racing at ACRC. Back Away won the race HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – The cry for “Riders Up!’ and that familiar bugle “Call to the Post” heralded the return of live racing to Atlantic City Race Course last week.

It was followed in short order by the roar of “They’re Off! and, after a few exciting moments of furious, heart-pounding action, a march to the betting windows for the lucky (or savvy) winners.

ACRC’s six-day live meet will continue this week, with six races on Sunday starting at 3:30 p.m. After an off-day on Monday, the meet will continue with six races on Tuesday and seven on Wednesday, capped by the $50,000 Tony Gatto Dream Big Stake Race, named after the late Gatto, who was track superintendent for 35 years.

Atlantic City Race Course is a venerable institution, having featured live horse racing of some sort every year for the last 67 years. In its heyday, the track was open for 50 days or more during the summer months, and fans flocked to the track to watch these beautiful equines compete in the “Sport of Kings” under the lights on ACRC’s fabled turf course.

In recent years, the track has featured simulcasting year-round but only a limited live meet in early spring. But track president Maureen Bugdon said there is hope for an expanded program in the near future.

“We’re actually trying to build on our live racing every single year, but it is baby steps,” Bugdon said during an interview on the "King Arthur Radio Show" on WIBG-AM 1020 last week. “The money we accumulate year-round with simulcasting … a portion of that goes into what’s known as a purse fund, and at the end of the year you take a look at what you have in there, and that affords you however many days of racing that you can do without over-paying purses. Six days, six or seven races a day, that’s really a nice fit for us. It’s what we can afford to do right now.

“And we’re growing it,” Bugdon said. “I would love to see some day where we have 10 days of racing before the Monmouth meet (in mid-May), and 10 days maybe in September where we’re extending the summer tourist season, and really bringing this track back to some of its former glory. We’ve managed to do that in small measure again this year, and the crowds are very supportive.”

New to the track this year is a renovated Beer Garden, with a full-service bar, betting pavilion and picnic area, and a new display on the first floor of the grandstand called “The Famous Faces of Atlantic City Race Course,” with pictures of personalities such as original track owner John B. Kelly, his daughter Princess Grace of Monaco, Bob Hope (who was one of the track’s original shareholders), Frank Sinatra and others.

Parking is free and admission is free.


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