Written by NJ Historian
In the 1870s, racing emerged at the Jersey Shore. New York businessman John F. Chamberlain, New Jersey Senate President Amos Robbins, and Adams Express Company President John Hoey built a racetrack in Long Branch as a tourist attraction to increase summertime business under the name the Monmouth Park Association. Their idea of drawing in crowds with a racetrack was successful and the very first race was held on July 30, 1870. Their success only lasted for a few years and in 1873, the racetrack was forced to close due to financial difficulties.
In 1888, George L. Lorillard, D.D. Withers, G.P. Wetmore, and James Gordon Bennett devised a plan to reopen the track and once again bring racing to the Jersey shore. Over the next four years, the grounds were restored and the grandstand was rebuilt. The racetrack reopened to the public in 1882. A second racecourse was opened on 160 acres, adjacent to the original one, due to its increasing popularity in 1890. It was one of the finest facilities in the country and in some years offered the highest purse distribution of any track in North America.
|Monmouth Park Racetrack, 1890.|
In 1939, Amory L. Haskell of Red Bank, New Jersey successfully lobbied the New Jersey State Legislature to reverse the 1894 ban on parimutuel wagering for both the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries. Upon its passage, Haskell immediately set out to build a new Monmouth Park Racetrack. The completion of the track was delayed by World War II and associated material shortages. The new Monmouth Park Racetrack, now located in Oceanport, opened to the public on June 19, 1946 before a crowd of 18,724. On July 25, 1950, 12,180 racing fans experienced the opening of the first turf race at Monmouth Park. In 1967, a one-eighth mile turf chute was installed diagonally across the infield allowing patrons a head-on view of the horses as they left the starting gate. Haskell served as president of Monmouth Park from opening day until he died on April 12, 1966 at the age of seventy-two.
|The grandstand at Monmouth Park Racetrack, Oceanport, NJ.|
|The paddock at Monmouth Park Racetrack, Oceanport, NJ.|
Although I am not a betting woman, I was given the opportunity to try betting on a few races thanks to the helpful racing ambassadors, who explained how to read the official program and determine the odds. Although it is not an exact science and purely luck, it is fun to see if you can determine the winner solely based on their past performances. The type of betting allowed at the tracks is called parimutuel, which is the French term for amongst ourselves, as in betting against one another. Betting at the racetrack, means betting against everyone else who has made the same wager in any race and not against the racetrack. The racetrack does not gain or lose any money in correlation to who wins or loses. Instead the racetrack takes a percentage from each dollar waged. Win, place, and show are typical wages someone may make. Placing a "win" bet means winning if the horse chosen makes first place. A "place" bet means winning if the horse chosen makes first or second place. A "show" bet means winning if the horse finishes first, second, or, third. Placing a bet is not difficult in itself, but determining which horse has the best chance of winning is more difficult! Although it may seem daunting for someone who has never tried it before, a day at the races can be a fun social affair with your family and friends. Imagine our Victorian ancestors in their formal attire placing a bet on "Old Bessy"!
Monmouth Park Racetrack - July 27, 2013