By John Korossy
On the third Saturday of each October, 35,000-plus people gather in suburban New Jersey at a horse farm for an afternoon of steeplechase racing, tailgating, and over-the-top merriment and people-watching.
Late October in central New Jersey means the Far Hills Races (informally known as “The Hunt”) — and this past year’s festivities didn’t disappoint, held under a sunlit sky on the green pastures of Moorland Farms. A melting pot of young and old, luxury SUVs and minivan moms, the people-watching often competes with the steeplechase races for center stage.
Always a curious sight in a horse pasture are the chartered tour buses, loaded with 20-something revelers from nearby New York City. Dressed in their best plaids, tweeds, leather boots, and sunglasses, they form a nucleus of decadence in the center party area.
The country pastures of the property are transformed into an organized grid of tailgate spots and corporate sponsor tents, with race coverage provided by overhead drones and jumbo monitors delivering live images. The loudspeakers echo the announcements of post times, horses that scratch from races, and of course win, place, and show results.
Tailgate hosts provide a variety of setups and cuisine. These range from simple coolers, grills, hot dogs, and burgers to elaborately catered feasts complete with white linen tablecloths, chafing dishes, waitstaff, and bartenders.
Recent additions to the event include a family-friendly area and a vendor village featuring local businesses and boutiques.
Of course, the main event is the horse racing, set against a backdrop of diversions and sights to see (and opportunities to be seen) for the attendees.
The 2017 event featured America’s richest Steeplechase race with a purse of $400,000 in the running of the Grand National race, won by Mr. Hot Stuff and rider Danny Mullins. The real winners, however, are local healthcare companies such as RWJ Barnabas Health and the Cancer Support Community of Central New Jersey, as the fundraising beneficiaries of this event.
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