Fans can bet on steeplechase horses on Oct. 20

July 25, 2018

FAR HILLS – Friendly side wagering has long been part of the action at the Far Hills Race Meeting, but this fall patrons of the huge benefit event will also be able to place state-sanctioned cash bets on the horses in the steeplechase races.

For the first time in its nearly century-long history, the Race Meeting will offer pari-mutuel wagering on all of its races on Saturday, Oct. 20, at Moorland Farms, according to a press release from event organizers.

“Far Hills is pleased to offer our loyal patrons this prized amenity: A chance to bet on our races,” said Far Hills Chairman Guy J. Torsilieri. “The wagering experience is yet another way for our fans to enjoy and be intimately involved in our races, which, every year, draw top horses from the United States and overseas.”

Under state law, Far Hills will conduct its one-day of wagering under Monmouth Park’s pari-mutuel license. All races will be under the supervision of the New Jersey Racing Commission.

“After years of working closely with the Far Hills Race Meeting team, we’re so pleased the partnership is finally official,” said Dennis Drazin, president and CEO of Darby Development LLC, which operates Monmouth Park. “We are grateful to have an opportunity to support this beloved 98-year tradition while also raising greater awareness for steeplechase racing and all equine sports throughout the region and beyond.”

Organizers first discussed betting some two years ago. There was no opposition to the plan and it received the blessing of local and state officials, but was delayed for technical reasons.

With strong support from Central New Jersey legislators and near-unanimous votes in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate, legislation authorizing pari-mutuel wagering at Far Hills passed in August 2016, with the law taking effect the following month.

Far Hills officials had worked to prepare for legal wagering last year, but logistical issues at the race course delayed the launch until the 2018 meet.

“We have resolved the logistical issues, and we’re now ready to provide a top-quality wagering experience,” Torsilieri said.

The big social event features world-class steeplechase races, including the $450,000 Grand National. In all, the 98th edition of the meeting will offer purses totaling $850,000, a record for a National Steeplechase Association race meet.

‘Equestrian Tradition’

Far Hills Borough officials have embraced the idea.

“As mayor, I and the Borough Council support the introduction of pari-mutuel wagering at the Far Hills Race Meeting, not only to enhance the event’s experience, but also to continue to provide funding for local charities, medical facilities and borough programs – both present and future – providing an important benefit to our residents,” said Mayor Paul J. Vallone. “Wagering will help to invigorate the equestrian tradition, which is part of the fabric of our region, and enhance growth within the Far Hills Race Meeting and throughout the entire borough as we both near our centennial anniversary.”

Unlike casinos where only those 21 years of age and older can bet, the legal age for betting on horses in New Jersey is 18.

Patrons will be able to place a variety of wagers, including traditional win, place and show bets in each race, plus so-called “exotic’’ bets such as exactas and trifectas, where bettors need to pick the top two or three horses in a single race. It is also expected that there will be number of “daily doubles’’ – where bettors need to select the winners of back-to-back races.

Approximately 60 betting windows will be set up on site.

Patrons will only be able to bet on the Far Hills live races, not other races taking place elsewhere in the country that day.

But bettors around the world will have an opportunity to wager on the steeplechase races. Far Hills will continue to provide high-definition video streaming of its races, as it has done for the past two years.

“We feel that Far Hills offers a premier steeplechase experience, and we welcome the opportunity to share our races with all of America and jump-racing fans around the world,” said Torsilieri, who also is the National Steeplechase Association’s president. “We hope that this combination of top-level competition, a superior video experience, and a wagering opportunity will attract new fans to steeplechase racing.”

Over the years, Far Hills Race Meeting has provided more than $18 million to fund local health-care initiatives, including the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, Cancer Support Community of Central New Jersey, Bonnie Brae in Bernards Township, the ARC of Somerset County, LifeCamp and Community In Crisis, a Bernardsville-based coalition fighting the drug crisis.

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