At its last meeting, the Long Branch Historical Society presented a talk by John Heims on the history of Monmouth Park. Mr. Heims is the Director of Media Relations at Monmouth Park. I can’t condense the last 140 years into a few paragraphs but one of the things I found interesting is that there have actually been three buildings that have carried the name Monmouth Park.
The original Monmouth Park opened in 1870 in an effort to increase summer trade for the shore area. The concept was supported by businessmen and hotel owners. The first meet was only five days long. In 1873 the track was sold and would not reopen for nine years. When Monmouth Park did reopen under new ownership, it became the most successful horsetrack in the country.
By 1890, Monmouth Park was booming. A new racecourse was built adjacent to the existing track, and in that year, the second Monmouth Park opened. Its elegance and excitement attracted New York society, entertainers, and politicians to Long Branch. President Ulysses S. Grant was spotted regularly in his box at the track. Celebrities such as Lillian Russell and Lily Langtree were frequent visitors, along with well-known gamblers Pittsburgh Phil and Diamond Jim Brady. In 1893 the State of New Jersey passed a law which banned betting on horse races. The track closed and it would be more than 50 years before horse racing was to return to the Jersey Shore.
Fifty-three years later parimutuel betting was once again legalized. On June 19, 1946, Monmouth Park opened for the third time in what is now its present location under new leaders including Amory Haskell and Phil Iselin. 18,724 were in attendance that day. Today, two of Monmouth Park's premier races are named after these gentlemen. The Haskell Invitational and the Philip H. Iselin Stakes.
Special thanks to Tom Fary of Eatontown for providing the attached photos.