- Matthew Collins
Photos by Matt Collins, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Monmouth Park 175 Oceanport Ave Oceanport, NJ 07757
Year Opened: 1870 Capacity: 8,000
Horses Down on the Shore
Monmouth Park has been a horse racing venue since 1870. It is located near the Jersey Shore in Oceanport, NJ and seats 8,000 but holds way more on major race days. It has live racing each weekend from May until September (the typical summer shore season) and hosts numerous major races, none bigger than the Haskell Invitational in July.
Food & Beverage 4
Monmouth Park has a massive array of food options, so many that an entire review could be dedicated just to food. There are food and drinks available at every turn at the venue; there are food and liquor stands on the first and second floor grandstand, including one with a horse racing themed name, The Winner’s Circle.
Two stands are near the park entrance selling Max’s Hot Dogs, a local staple for almost a century. A famous Max’s Hot Dog is offered for $7 and a cheese dog is offered for $8. A Jersey Shore touch is a pork roll and cheese hot dog for $10. Chicken Tenders with Fries are offered for $12 and a cheeseburger with chips is $11. The cheeseburger from the Max’s stand was excellent and the chips added a nice touch, a welcome diversion from the usual fries that accompany a burger. Boardwalk Eats, a first floor concession stand, offered a cheaper hot dog at $5 and a $12 Boardwalk Burger with fries. Drinks offered at the Max’s stand included Gatorade for $4 and Bottled Water, Coca-Cola, and Iced Tea all for $3. Alcohol was not served but was ubiquitous everywhere else. The Silver Bullet bar offers hard seltzer and beer for $7 and wine for $9 and a premium mixed cocktail for $12. The concession stands accept both cash and credit/debit cards.
Monmouth Park Max's Hot Dogs, Photo by Matt Collins, Stadium Journey
The stadium is laid out in the typical style of horse racing tracks. The main grandstand is quite imposing and is three stories high. Seating is plentiful; the first floor features bench seats and standing room that provide an up close and personal view of the action on the track. The second floor is a mixture of box seats and seats with backs for general admission customers. The third floor is all general admission seating, although a lot less crowded than the first two floors. However, the third floor provides an amazing vista of the entire track and surrounding area. The second and third floors are covered while the first floor seating is out in the sun.
The clubhouse is on the outer edge of the grandstand and is for the privileged elite that have a pass or have a connection to a horse through trainer, owner, or breeder. The clubhouse features luxury boxes and air conditioning. Betting stations are almost everywhere and what once was illicit is now embraced as sports betting is legal in New Jersey. In the main grandstand, numerous replay boards are available for those watching other horse races at Saratoga, Belmont or elsewhere and the replay board also features other sporting events like baseball. The third floor has an air conditioned room for serious hard core racing fans, mostly older men.
The first floor features a gift shop and free WiFI is available throughout the venue. The paddock is a short walk from the main entrance and gives fans the opportunity to view the horses up close before they take to the track. The track scoreboard is huge in width and features a replay board that shows the action that occurred in the previous race.
Music was not played over the PA at Monmouth Park and the track announcer was obscured by the din of the crowd during races. The announcer could be heard crystal clear in the paddock and outdoor picnic area, where less people gathered during races.
Monmouth Park is located in Oceanport, a sleepy residential town that doesn’t have much in the way of nightlife. However, Oceanport is 10 minutes away from Long Branch and Red Bank, two cultural hubs of the Jersey Shore. There are hotels on Route 36 near the park which were built in an effort to capitalize on tourists flocking to the shore in the summer. Long Branch and Red Bank are both newly revitalized cities that had once seen better days but are now becoming gentrified and hip places to go.
Long Branch has the recently built Pier Village near the water that has numerous shopping options as well as McLoone’s Pier House, a restaurant owned by legendary Jersey restaurateur Tim McLoone. Red Bank has the Count Basie Theatre, a beautiful waterfront, and a bustling downtown. However, tourists should be aware that there are sections of both towns where one should not venture at night. Additionally, the PNC Bank Arts Center is located about 15 minutes away in Holmdel and plays host to numerous famous musical acts including Hall and Oates, Santana, and Rod Stewart.
A Monmouth Park crowd is loud. So loud that the track announcer is barely audible. So loud the buzz from fans can be heard well after a race has ended. The day Stadium Journey attended the park the crowd was a large mix of young people clad in Vineyard Vines, horse racing junkies (mostly middle aged and older men) living and dying with every bet they made, and families seeking a good time, maybe skipping the beach for a day to explore what the surrounding area has to offer.
There is an NJ Transit train stop located behind the third turn of the track and spectators can see the train go behind the race course on any given race day. Parking availability is enormous as there is nothing around the park besides a massive field for parking. There are two NJ Transit bus stops at the park and Lyft/Uber service was available outside the main gate. Tickets are available both online and at the gate. There was a large sign at the entrance declaring that the park doesn’t allow outside food/drink and no coolers were allowed.
Moving around the concourse was difficult at times because the place was packed (a welcome sight after a restrictive summer of 2020 due to COVID) but on less crowded days it would be a breeze to walk around the park. The bathrooms had few lines despite the large crowd and large amounts of handicapped parking and seating were available.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets at Monmouth Park are the best prices imaginable, free. Parking is also free. That doesn’t mean that food and drink are but still free parking and admission to see 12 high level horse races is pretty damned good. A program at Monmouth Park costs $5.
-A row of statues of jockeys as you walk up to the entrance
-Silks of past winners at the track hanging on the first floor concourse
-A program that alerted fans about new amenities at the park for 2021 as well as upcoming promotions like a t-shirt giveaway, classic car night, and $2 happy hour beer night.
-A mini golf course designed for families that costs $10 for adults and $8 for kids 12 and under.
-Due to New Jersey Racing Commission statues, jockeys are no longer allowed to whip horses at any New Jersey track including Monmouth Park.
If you’re looking for something fun to do down the shore during the summer, look no further than an exciting day of horse racing at Monmouth Park.