Last year, Paynter won the Haskell Invitational for Zayat Stables after finishing second in the Belmont Stakes (Photo courtesy Eclipse Sportswire).
Every summer fans eagerly anticipate the start of the racing meet at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey. From the day-to-day racing cards to some of the better stakes races of the summer, Monmouth Park has it all. Oh, and Monmouth Park is located about a mile from the beach. What could be better then going to the beach in the morning then spending an afternoon at the track? This wonderful meet is also home to one of the most prestigious 3-year-old races of the year, The Haskell Invitational.
History of Racing in New Jersey and Amory L. Haskell
Thoroughbred racing at the Jersey shore dates all the way back to Independence Day in 1870 when Monmouth Park was first opened. Monmouth Park quickly established itself as one of the preeminent racing meets and boasted some of the best purse distributions of all the tracks in the United States. This success would be short lived though. In 1893, anti-gambling legislation was passed in the state of New Jersey and Monmouth Park was forced to close its doors.
It took over 50 years but racing would return to the shores of New Jersey. Amory Haskell, a prominent business man in New York, successfully lobbied for the return of pari-mutual wagering in the state of New Jersey in 1939 and with this victory, racing was back in New Jersey. With the new laws in place, Haskell set out to build a racetrack in the same location as its predecessor and in 1946 the new Monmouth Park opened its doors to the public. Haskell served as the President of Monmouth Park from its opening in 1946 until his death in 1966. Haskell was the reason for the rebirth of racing in the Garden State and he helped to define and grow the way racing would be run at the shore for twenty years.
After his death, Monmouth Park decided to honor his legacy by establishing the Amory L. Haskell Handicap as a stakes race for older horses in 1968. This race would be run this way until 1981 when Monmouth Park changed the race to the Haskell Invitational and made it a mile and an eighth race for three-year-olds. The rest, they say is history.
The Haskell Invitational Today
Today, the Haskell Invitational boasts a purse of $1 million and has grown to become one of the most prestigious races for the top three-year-olds in the United States. It serves as one of the best tests for these horses between the Triple Crown races and the Breeders Cup later on in the year. The winners of this race have been a who’s who of some of the best three-year-old horses. Previous champions include Forty Niner, Holy Bull, Skip Away, Coronado’s Quest, Point Given, War Emblem, Big Brown, and the great fillies Serena’s Song and Rachel Alexandra. Not a bad list to promote the importance and prestige of the race.
One of the great traditions of the Haskell is the giving away of the commemorative Haskell Invitational hat every year on the day of the race. This tradition began in 1988 and has continued on to this day. So when you go to Monmouth Park for the big race, make sure to pick up your free hat. Also, here is a link to all the previous years’ hats. Check it out and see which one is your favorite; I personally am a big fan of 1988 and 1991.
THE 1988 HASKELL HAT
THE HAT HASKELL FANS RECIEVED IN 1991
Photos courtesy Monmouth Park
Haskell Invitational Trophy
The trophy for the Haskell Invitational is one of the most sought after in the sport. It features three golden Thoroughbreds racing down the stretch, each 3” tall and 5” long. Behind the horses is a gold and silver representation of the famous Monmouth Park arches logo and is about 12” tall. The arches and horses are all surrounded by four golden flags on silver flagpoles and measure 15” tall. All of this is placed on a 5” thick Mahogany base and a 4” silver plaque is attached to the front of the base with the race, date, race time, horse, trainer, owner, and jockey’s names all inscribed on it. In honor of Amory Haskell, his daughters, Hope Haskell-Jones and Anne Haskell-Ellis, present the Haskell trophy each year to the winning connections.
THE HASKELL TROPHY IS ONE OF THE MOST COVETED TROPHIES IN RACING
Photo courtesy Eclipse Sportswire
Last year The Daily Racing Form compiled a list, with video replays, of their top Haskell Invitational performances. Check it out by following the link below and see some of the top moments in this great race’s history and get excited about this year’s race on July 28th.