FAR HILLS, NJ - It's one of the major social and sporting events in New Jersey's horse country, and beyond. The Far Hills Race Meeting, due to return to Moorland Farm this Saturday, Oct. 20, will also bring something new to the party this year, with the launch of pari-mutuel betting.
Some things never change, however. The Hunt will again draw some of the world's best racehorses and jockeys, as well as many thousands of revelers who enjoy tailgating, meeting friends, and kicking up their own heels.
The fall tradition in the Somerset Hills each year also raises funds for healthcare organizations as well as other charities, such as Community in Crisis in the Somerset Hills and the Bonnie Brae Educational Center in Basking Ridge. The RWJBarnabas Health network and Cancer Support Community of Center Jersey will be major beneficiaries.
"Over the years, with the support of our sponsors, racegoers and event partners, the Far Hills Race Meeting has given more than $18 million to support local healthcare organizations," according to race organizers.
But most attendees -- who might arrive by limo or via the New Jersey Transit train line -- concentrate on food and fun at the event.
Food is sold on the premises, but especially those who rent sites at the top of the hill cater their own parties. Alcohol flows freely, but each year local police make multiple arrests on such charges as disorderly conduct and underage drinking.
Open Road Auto Group and Peapack-Gladstone Bank sponsor the event.
The addition of legal wagering will no doubt assist the race committee attain its stated goals of $1 million in purses and a $500,000 Grand National in time for the 100th running of the race meeting in 2020.
Following years of delay, legal betting on steeplechase racing received a lot of backing from members of the New Jersey legislature when the authorizing legislation was passed in August 2016. Logistical problems forced postponement of the plan until this year.
Guy Torsilieri of Whitehouse, N.J., the Far Hills co-chair who is also president of the National Steeplechase Association, was one of the first proponents of legal wagering at Far Hills and has been spearheading the campaign to make it happen. “We've resolved the logistical issues. Now, we're ready to provide a top-quality wagering experience,” he said.
The seven-race card offers $850,000 in gross purses, the highest dollar value of any sanctioned steeplechase meeting in North America. The highlight for the 2018 renewal will be the $450,000 Grand National, steeplechasing's richest race In North America that annually draws the best horses in training both here and from Europe.
The Far Hills Race Meeting traces its roots to the Essex Hunt, a fox hunt started in 1870 in Montclair, in Essex County.
In 1916, the event moved from the original club site to the Grant B. Schley estate -- today known as Moorland Farm, according to the Far Hills Race Meeting. The event later became known as the Far Hills Race Meeting, and races have been continually run on the same site, with the exception of a short interruption during World War I1.
The Far Hills Race Meeting currently offers some of the richest purses in America and is host of the The Grand National steeplechase, the most prestigious race in American steeplechasing, the website says.