By Art Petrosemolo
Monmouth Park is not just a mecca for horse fans, it’s a whole lot more
OCEANPORT – A summer visit to Monmouth County and the Two River area is not complete without a trip to Monmouth Park (MP). With a horse racing history that dates back to 1870, Monmouth Park, now, is not just a mecca for horse fans.
In recent years, and in particular under private management since 2012, MP has and is refashioning itself into a family and entertainment destination. It has become a place where there are things to see, things to do, things to eat along with thoroughbred racing, what has always been called “the sport of kings.”
The focal point of MP’s family events is Sunday Family Fun Day (Memorial Day – Labor Day). From noon to 4 p.m., with regular $3 grandstand admission, in the picnic area there is family entertainment including live music, clowns, pony rides, bounce house, face painting and games. Children under 12 enjoy free admission to the Oceanport track.
Monmouth Park has built a 36-hole miniature golf course on the north end of the park. Daily, throughout the season, on race and non-race days, weather permitting, the course opens at 10 a.m. and stays open until 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 p.m. weekends.
The famous racing dawn patrol is held each Saturday and Sunday starting at 8 a.m. beginning on the clubhouse apron. There is no charge for the program but make a reservation. It gives you an inside look of what racing is all about with a motorized tour of the backstretch, starting gate and jockey’s room. From Laurie Lane, you’ll learn about the life of a thoroughbred racehorse and how it trains to be a champion.
Monmouth Park hosts a series of promotions on weekend race days including food festivals, wine tastings, an Irish Festival, jockey memorabilia sale, T-shirt giveaway, cigar luncheon, ladies day, crabcake cook-off, barbecue-craft beer festival and Oktoberfest, among others. Complete information on the track’s race and non-racing promotions and programs can be found on their website: www.monmouthpark.com.
But don’t look to Monmouth Park just for miniature golf and entertainment… MP held its first thoroughbred race in 1870 and its modern history dates back to 1848 when thoroughbred racing was again permitted. Today, Jersey-bred horses and thoroughbreds from across the country gather for the 60-plus day meet at the Jersey Shore. The racing schedule centers around the weekend with Saturday and Sunday cards plus Friday action throughout the summer and some Monday racing.
The track’s premier event is the annual Grade 1 Haskell stakes to be run this season on Sunday, July 28. The event has new sponsorship: William Hill Sports Betting has partnered with Monmouth Park to sponsor the event and be the track’s partner for a facility if the state’s plan to legalize sports clears federal objections. The Haskell brings many of the country’s top 3 year olds to the shore for this $1 million dollar purse. In the past, many of the season’s triple crown winners and favorites have raced in the Haskell.
A mere stone’s throw from the beach, Monmouth Park is easy to get to for a day away from the hot summer sun or as an alternative to outlet shopping on days with no sun.
Here are events scheduled at Monmouth Park this year:
May 25-26: The Jersey Shore Food Truck Wars kicks off Memorial Day Weekend. The event will feature more than 20 trucks for people to sample their favorite food to cast their vote for the People’s Choice Award.
May 26: Free Family Fun Day. Free kid’s activities include bounce houses, face painting, clowns and pony rides from noon to 4 p.m. Live music will be provided.
May 27: Monmouth Handicapping Seminar presented by Jim Mazur. A free informative event, starting at 11 a.m., to help people learn how to become a “better bettor.”
June 1: Free Miller Lite Grandstand Pass Giveaway. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. and passes will be valid through the month of June.
June 9: 43rd Annual Irish Festival. The Irish Fest includes live music and Irish step dancing, food and craft vendors, a 50/50 raffle, and a full day of horse racing.
June 16: The Monmouth Park Father’s Day Sports Ticket Giveaway. This is an event for families to celebrate the day with dad and win tickets to his favorite teams.
June 22-23: Win & Wine Weekend. From 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday pay $10 for unlimited wine samples from the best of New Jersey’s wineries.
June 22: The Dawn Patrol Tours begin. The Monmouth County racetrack tours are free to all looking to learn more about the behind the scenes of the track. Tours will be running all summer from June 22 through August 25.
June 29: The Free Miller Lite Grandstand Pass Giveaway. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. and attendees of the race will receive a free pass while supply lasts.
July 4: The 4th of July Holiday Racing and Jockey Memorabilia Sale. Celebrate Independence Day with live music, signed horse racing memorabilia will be available for purchase near the English Walking Ring.
July 5-7: The Jockey Memorabilia Sale continues throughout the holiday weekend.
July 6: The GI United Nations Stakes and T-shirt Giveaway. This Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” race is an opportunity for spectators to watch and bet on their pick for the winning horse that will be entered into the GI Breeders’ Cup Turf.
July 7: The $200 Handicapping Contest. The top two winners of this race will qualify for the 2014 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas, and the top 10 will receive prize money.
July 14: The 20th Annual Haskell Classic Car Show. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. Admission is $3 to take enjoy the cool cars of the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s and beyond.
July 26: Joes Vs Jockeys Mini Gold Tournament will feature the pros of the track trying their hand at Monmouth Park’s new Bluegrass Mini-Golf Course.
July 27: The Heineken Cigar Luncheon. Held on the patio terrace roof, tickets will go on sale beginning June 1 for $125 and will include five cigars, a lunch, top-shelf bar and more.
July 27: The Miller Lite Month of August Grandstand Pass Giveaway. Gates will open at 11:30 a.m. for this event.
July 28: The $1 million Haskell Invitational. Gates open at 10 a.m. Grandstand admission is $5 to watch the race, featuring the nation’s top 3-year-old thoroughbreds.
Aug. 4: Family Fun Day. Grandstand admission is $3 from noon to 4 p.m. and all kids’ activities are free, including bounce houses, face painting, and pony rides.
Aug. 10: Ladies Day is a new addition with all women sporting a fancy hat or headpiece receiving free admission.
Aug. 11: Kortney’s Challenge Fun Run/Walk is a 2-mile event that raises money for pediatric brain cancer research, immediately followed by Family Fun Day for participants to enjoy.
Aug. 17-18: The Shore Chef Crabcake Cook-off. A seafood event featuring crabcakes, catfish, clams and more from noon to 5 p.m. Food prices from $5 to $15.
Aug. 24: The Miller Lite Month of September/October Grandstand Pass Giveaway. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 25: Final Dawn Patrol Day is the last chance for anyone who wants to hop on an early morning tram tour of the racetrack, backside, starting gate, and jockeys’ room.
Aug. 31-Sept. 1: The BBQ and Craft Beer Festival. A general admission of $3 will grant attendees access to the track and festival area for their fill of barbecue and beer.
Sept. 21: The New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival. The Malouf Auto Group presents the event featuring a free cooler giveaway.
Sept. 28: Oktoberfest is a celebration of the traditions of Germany. Attendees dressed in lederhosen get free admission.
Oct. 6: Closing Day/Fan Appreciation Day. Fans will enjoy free grandstand admission and half-price clubhouse admission.