It all started with a track and horse races in 1870, but while horses remain the core focus today, they are only the start of what Monmouth Park offers. WELCOME TO THE TRACK
Monmouth Park racetrack strives to be a place for everyone, catering to all walks of life, whether you are a fan of horseraces or have never set foot at a track. “We’re a lot more than just horseracing,” said Brian Skirka, marketing manager at Monmouth Park. “We’re literally something for everyone. “You can bring the entire family and there will be something for everyone on a given day,” he added. From events and festivals to mini-golf and dining, Monmouth Park caters to all ages. According to Skirka, Sundays in particular are all about family and the day has been built up over the years. “Every Sunday we do Family Fun Day so we have pony rides, bounce house, face painters and clowns,” said Skirka. He added that most Sundays there is a live band and something for the entire family. FOOD FOCUS
“This year we’ve made a big focus on our food and beverage,” said Skirka. “We’ve tried to enhance that, which has gone over very well. “So that’s just something that adds to the experience while you’re here,” he said. Max’s Hot Dogs and Lighthouse Italian Ice are on premises every day. In addition, there is a new food and beverage department that has transformed the menus in the dining room and luxury boxes. New beer offerings are also on the menu at Monmouth Park this year. “Some breweries that have never been here are now here so you can get craft beers, which are very popular, obviously,” said Skirka. EVENTS FOR EVERYONE
Monmouth Park is home to numerous festivals and events throughout the summer months. Popular events include the Seafood Festival, Italian Festival, Latin Festival, Wine and Chocolate Festival, Ladies Day and many more.
According to Skirka, over the course of the summer Monmouth Park strives to present events for every group out there. “We kind of want to stand back at the end of the summer and say, ‘Hey, over the course of the last three or four months pretty much anyone in the area who had an interest in coming to the track, we gave them an opportunity to come out,’ ” explained Skirka. HOME OF THE HASKELL
Nifty Mambo with Felix Ortiz in the saddle rears up during the post parade before the fourth race at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, N.J. on Sunday August 30, 2009. Nifty Mambo went on to win the race. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Skirka noted this year is the fifth Ladies Day that Monmouth Park is hosting and it is the fourth year that the event falls on the day before the Haskell Invitational. “Going back four or five years , we looked at other big races around the country, whether it be the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness or some other big races, and what those tracks do is they make it more of a weekend as opposed to just the one day. So if you go back 10 years ago to Monmouth Park it was just Haskell Day,” explained Skirka.
In order to change that, Ladies Day was born and has since remained. According to Skirka, over the past few years the race has been turned into a weekend event and it has been very popular. “On Saturday for Ladies Day we partner with Lilly Pulitzer Shops at Riverdale, the mall up in Hackensack. They are partners for the day,” said Skirka. “They come and set up a tent and sell their dresses, he added. “They help us put on a fashion show.” This year a charity component was added to Ladies Day. According to Skirka, the track reached out and partnered with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and a portion of every paid admission will go to the foundation. This year marks the 50th Haskell Invitational on Sunday, July 30, so there will be a few special extras in the works. Skirka shared that one of those is that throughout the course of the day there will be replays of previous Haskell races. A computer simulation race has been created in which the 12 greatest Haskell winners of all time were chosen and they race against each other. That simulation will be played during the races as well. “There’s always obviously a big buzz for Haskell, but hopefully being the 50th it will be even a little bit bigger this year,” said Skirka.
THE BIRTH OF BLU GROTTO
The Beer Garden at Blu Grotto is Monmouth Park’s latest venture, opening this summer. While still new, it’s been doing really well, Skirka said. He shared that a charity event was held a few weeks back where the jockeys served as bartenders for an hour- and-a half and all the tips went to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. It was the first event of its kind and it brought out about 250-300 people. A new addition to the Blu Grotto is a pizza oven, so fresh pizzas are now offered on the menu. According to Skirka, more and more people are coming to Monmnouth Park every week. PLAN A TRIP
With all that Monmouth Park has to offer it’s a great destination for friends and family to have a fun-filled day at the track. The month of August is packed with events at Monmouth Park. “We do an Italian Festival and Wine Tast- ing on Aug. 5,” said Skirka. ‘We have a Latin Festival on Sunday, Aug. 20, the Tu Sello Latino Fest, and probably our biggest event remaining is on Labor Day weekend, we do a BBQ and Craft Beer Festival Sept. 2 through 4.” According to Skirka, Labor Day weekend is always very popular and showcases many local BBQ places as well as a craft beer garden with around 40 to 50 different types of craft beer available.
Dawn Patrol at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. Photo By EQUI-PHOTO.
“Monmouth Park is a family friendly entertainment destination, there’s something for everyone,” shared Skirka. “You can bring the kids and it’s not expensive.”