OCEANPORT, NJ - Kellyn Gorder's Draxhall Woods, who has been wintering at Fair Grounds, was the first horse to arrive at Monmouth Park when the back stretch opened in preparation for the 2018 season.

Veteran trainer Greg Sacco was on the halter when the gelding arrived to race for the 62nd time in his career when the Monmouth racing season opens on May 5.

Fifty-two racing programs are on the docket that will conclude on Sept. 9. The Monmouth season will then be followed by 'Monmouth-at-the-Meadowlands' six all turf cards concluding on Sept. 30.

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Draxhall Woods stopped off at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. to finish second in a $10,000 claimer on Friday, April 13.

Sacco, who plans to have some 40 horses under his shed at the Jersey Shore, refers to Monmouth Park as “home” and says “It means a lot to be back.”

John F. Heims, who moves from the communications office to the racing secretary's desk for the first time, said he is “encouraged by the feedback and support we've had from trainers and owners to this meeting. It already feels like we've built momentum we can carry through the summer.”

Jorge Navarro, Monmouth's champion trainer the past four summers, was one of the first trainers to arrive. Chuck Spina arrived to start his 48th year at Monmouth after shipping over from Overbrook Farm in nearby Colts Neck. “Those of us what have been coming here for years always look forward to this. It's a fresh start and a great place to be.”

Opening day at Monmouth, which is also Kentucky Derby Day, will have a special 1:45 p.m. post time.

MATCH Bonuses Announced

After a 16-year hiatus, the revived Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships — the MATCH Series — received another boost when the region's breeders organizations announced the offering of a $10,000 bonus from each group that will result in the breeders of the top female and male horses in each MATCH division receiving a $5,000 bonus.

The breeders organizations involved are the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders, Maryland Horse Breeders, Thoroughbred Breeders of New Jersey, and the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program.

The MATCH divisions are all for 3-year-olds and up racing long on dirt, fillies and mares sprinting on dirt, sprinters on the turf, filles and mares sprinting on the turf and sprinters on the dirt track.

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