Located on the Jersey Shore, Monmouth Park Racetrack has created and carried forward a tradition of racing on the East Coast since 1870. Overcoming struggles through the years became a signature sign of strength for Monmouth Park, which closed only for the years when wagering on horses was banned in New Jersey in the early 1900s.
Today, it boasts famous races and new betting technology. Most recently, it was the first place in New Jersey to offer sports betting in 2018 after the state won a case in the US Supreme Court.
Oceanport is the home of Monmouth Park Racetrack, a horse racing venue that has been a tradition in the Jersey Shore community since 1870. It boasts a dirt track and turf course with races offered from May to September each year.
In addition to the tracks, the stable area contains 40 barns and stables. Wolf Hill Farm was a private stable and practice facility just next to the main complex. It was owned by the Valentino family and offered practice dirt oval and turf courses before the Monmouth County Park System took over. It is now a recreational area with sports fields and park space, all remnants of the former practice tracks now gone.
A plethora of seating is available in the grandstand and clubhouse pavilion areas. There is also a large picnic area with grills and tables, as well as a picnic patio that is more upscale. For reservations, there is the patio terrace roof, luxury boxes and a penthouse, along with the Turf Club banquet room.
The last decade has seen Monmouth Park partner with Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City to bring more entertainment to the racetrack. Other additions to increase attendance have included a miniature golf course near the entrance and high-end restaurants like the Blue Grotto.
The Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill opened in 2018 — the first one in the state of New Jersey — and has increased traffic at the park with the appeal of sports betting.
Attendance was up for the racing season in 2019, as wagering on outside sources was up nearly 19% and on-track wagering was up more than 1 percent. Total attendance was also up from 465,244 in 2018 to 545,767 in 2019.
The main track at Monmouth Park is a one-mile (1.6-kilometer) dirt oval track with chutes for six-furlong races and 1 ¼-mile races.
The turf course is seven furlongs with a diagonal chute for 1-mile races and 1 1/8-mile offerings. There is now a second chute for 5 ½-furlong sprint races, which was added to the grass course prior to the 2006 racing season. Turf races offer the most options, as they can be run along the hedge or the portable rail. The Haskell Course places the rail 12 feet out, the Monmouth Course puts it 24 feet out and the Lennox Course is 36 feet out.
The most popular and historic race at Monmouth Park is the Haskell Invitational. It dates back to 1968 and was named after former track president and chairman Amory Haskell. The race was originally called the Amory L. Haskell Handicap for older horses, but it was upgraded to an invitational race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds in 1981.
Each year, the Haskell Invitational takes place between the end of the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup and offers a $1 million purse. It also offers incentives for a $25,000 bonus for any owner and trainer of a horse who won any of the three Triple Crown races and runs in the Haskell Invitational. In addition, any trainer with a horse in the Haskell that won a Grade I race but not a leg of the Triple Crown receives $10,000.
The United Nations Stakes is the other Grade I race at Monmouth. It dates back to 1953 when it ran at the Atlantic City Race Course, and it became the Caesars International in 1990. In 1999, the race became the United Nations Stakes and transferred to run at Monmouth Park. It offers an 11-furlong turf race for thoroughbreds 3 years and older. There is also now a $300,000 purse, added in 2016.
While not a Grade I race, the Jersey Derby is a fan favorite. It first ran in 1864 and transferred tracks numerous times through the years before landing at Monmouth Park in 1999. It has been run on the dirt track in the past, but it is typically a turf race consisting of 8 ½ furlongs and set for 3-year-old horses.
The dates for the 2020 racing season and primary races have not yet been announced.
|Grade I Stakes||Grade II Stakes||Grade III Stakes|
|Haskell Invitational Handicap||None||Boiling Springs Stakes|
|United Nations Stakes||Cliff Hanger Stakes|
|Jersey Shore Breeders’ Cup Stakes|
|Long Branch Stakes|
|Molly Pitcher Stakes|
|Philip H. Iselin Stakes|
|Red Bank Handicap|
|Salvator Mile Handicap|
The complicated history of Monmouth Park started in 1870. It opened on June 30 that year for a five-day meet. There was national attention for the opening, promoted by New York businessman John Chamberlain, New Jersey Senate President Amos Robbins and businessman John Hoey. They wanted to bring more business to the shore during the summer months, and Monmouth Park attracted important races. It was dubbed the “Newmarket of America.”
The glow of its success was short-lived, though, as Monmouth Park closed three years later due to financial problems.
Several businessmen — George Lorillard, D.D. Withers, G.P. Wetmore and James Gordon Bennett — bought the track thereafter and restored it, rebuilding the grandstand and reopening it in 1882. It was successful again, so much so that they built a second racecourse next to the first one and opened that in 1890.
Another setback in 1891 forced its closure again, though. New Jersey lawmakers tried to outlaw pari-mutuel wagering, during which time races moved to other tracks. In 1894, a new law banning all horse race wagering forced Monmouth’s closure for the long term. The government seized the property and sold much of it to pay for taxes owed by the former owners.
|Belmont Park||Churchill Downs||Saratoga Racecourse||Monmouth Park||Arlington International Racecourse|
|Pimlico Race Course||Keeneland Race Course||Santa Anita Park||Oaklawn Racing||Fair Grounds Race Course|
Amory Haskell fought for the legalization of pari-mutuel wagering in the 1940s. He was successful, and he partnered with several other businessmen to launch the Monmouth Park Jockey Club and reopen the track in July 1946. After being closed for 53 years, the park brought in 18,724 people on opening day to watch and bet on live thoroughbred racing.
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority purchased Monmouth Park in 1985 for a reported price of $45 million. Most recently, the NJSEA signed a five-year agreement with Darby Development for the operation of the racetrack.