Monmouth Park Racetrack is a thoroughbred horse racing venue in Oceanport, Monmouth County, New Jersey, USA. The more than 152 years old racetrack is one of the oldest horse racing facilities in the country and a flagbearer for modern-day horse racing.
Monmouth Park is currently under the ownership of NJSEA (New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority), while Darby Development LLC is operating it under a five-year lease program. The racetrack features a wide array of Grade 1 and 2 races during its live racing season, which runs from early May to early September.
Here is a brief account of Monmouth Park’s history and its facilities.
Monmouth Park History
The current Monmouth Park is the third horse racing facility with the same name. The original Monmouth Park began operations in July 1870 and was located in Eatontown, NJ. The Monmouth Park Association had established the facility to attract more tourism to the region during summers. The venue hosted quality races but could not survive beyond three years due to financial issues and was shut down.
In 1878, four individuals with various backgrounds in business, publishing, horse breeding, and politics joined hands and acquired the track. They invested considerable time and effort in revamping the track and associated facilities and reopened in 1882. During the next eight to ten years, the racecourse increased in popularity, and the quality of races improved as well. A new racetrack was established next to the existing one in 1890 and became the second Monmouth Park.
The era of growth was, however, short-lived as pari-mutuel betting was banned in New Jersey, and Monmouth Park was closed. A few months later, the venue’s fixtures, including its grandstand, were seized and sold by the Township Committee at an auction to cater for back taxes payment. The US army used the racetrack’s site to build Fort Monmouth.
Horse racing in the region was almost non-existent in the early to mid-1900s. After a hiatus of almost 60 years, in 1946, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill to regulate horse racing in the state. Amory L. Haskell played a major role in getting the bill approved and the permit to bet on horse races. The track’s key race Haskell Invitational is named after him. As a result, the Monmouth Park Jockey Club was formed in June 1946, and racing was resumed.
In 1985, the NJSEA acquired Monmouth Park from the Monmouth Park Jockey Club for $45 million and took charge of the facility. In 2011, it signed a deal with Morris Baily, a famous casino owner, to form a liaison between the racetrack and the casino. The casino sponsored the Haskell Invitational, and the intention was to create a linkage between horse racing and gambling.
Despite its turbulent past and the prolonged racing hiatus, racing has picked up the pace again at Monmouth Park, making the sport popular in the region.
Monmouth Park Facilities
Monmouth Park comprises two tracks. The outer track is a one-mile oval dirt track. The main course has chutes that facilitate 1 ¼ and 0.75-mile races. The inner track is a turf track with a circumference of 0.875 miles. The turf track has a transverse chute for 1 and 1 ⅛ miles races. In 2006, the turf course was redesigned to install another chute for sprint or smaller races. There is a portable rail at the Turf track to alter its outlay.
The stable area of Monmouth Park features forty barns and stables. In 1963, the Monmouth Jockey Club acquired the Wolf Hill Farm, adjacent to the park, which had served as a stable and practice facility for Monmouth Park in a private capacity and became a part of the complex. When the NJSEA took over the park, it went under state ownership and was later sold to Monmouth County Park Facility in 1998 to be converted into a recreational facility.
A miniature golf course was opened at Monmouth Park in 2013. It comprises two 18-hole courses; the Triple Crown Course and the Haskell Course. The facility also features a luxury restaurant, the Blu Grotto, which opened in 2016. The restaurant opened its outdoor wine and dining area, the Beer Garden, a year later.
Sports betting started at Monmouth Park in June 2018, when Sports book by William Hill was opened, making Monmouth the first racecourse in the state to facilitate sports betting.
Major Races At Monmouth Park
The Monmouth Park Racetrack features a wide array of Grade 1 and 2 races during its live racing season, which runs from early May to early September. One of its main racing events is the Haskell Invitational.
Another Grade 1 race is the United Nations Stakes. Some of the most prominent Grade 2 races include the Monmouth Cup and Molly Pitcher Stakes, among others.
How to get to Monmouth Park
Monmouth Park is accessible via the Monmouth Park Station at the NJ Transit’s NJ Coast Line during the racing season.