We're less than a day away from the Grade-1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ. The Haskell is one of the top races of the year for three-year-olds, including many horses who raced in the Triple Crown races. You can find the Bourbon & Barns Viewers' Guide to the Haskell Invitational at https://bourbonandbarns.com/blog/2017/7/27/haskell-invitational-a-viewers-guide.
Monmouth Park is a beautiful racetrack located only a few miles from the beaches of the Jersey Shore. We caught up with Oceanport Councilman Joseph Irace to learn a little more about Monmouth, the Haskell and life on the Jersey Shore. Check out our Q&A with Councilman Irace below.
Bourbon & Barns: First things first. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Joseph Irace: I am a Councilman in Oceanport, NJ home of Monmouth Park. Currently serving my 4th term.
B&B: What does Monmouth Park mean to Oceanport in terms of tourism and economy of the area?
JI: Monmouth Park is both Oceanport's largest employer and taxpayer. It is a huge economic driver not only for Oceanport but also Monmouth County and the entire state of New Jersey.
B&B: For the past 50 years, the Haskell Invitational has featured some of the best three-year-olds of the year. Do you have any special memories of races or horses you’ve seen in the Haskell over the years?
JI: I always love coming to this event. There are so many memories but the one that stands out the most is Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Not only winning in front of 65,000 people but the days leading up to the race had 10,000 + people coming to the track to see him gallop! It was an electrifying week. . . Rachel Alexandra beating the boys was another terrific Haskell!
B&B: This year’s Haskell has an interesting story line as the owner of Irish War Cry is actually the daughter of Amory Haskell, the person the Haskell Invitational was named for. What do you think of that cool twist for the 50th anniversary of the race?
JI: It's a great thing for everyone involved in New Jersey horse racing! The horse is a NJ Bred. It's brought a great story to the 50th Anniversary and it shows our politicians in Trenton that New Jersey breeding and horse racing is alive and well and can compete with the best horses in the country! Amory Haskell was one of Monmouth's founding fathers. It would be terrific for all of NJ if the horse wins!
B&B: This year’s race also features some of the other top horses of the year, including Battle of Midway, Timeline, Practical Joke, McCraken, Hence and Girvin. Who are you rooting for tomorrow?
JI: Sentimentally, I am rooting for Irish War Cry for the above mentioned reasons.
B&B: Let’s switch gears. Are you a Bourbon drinker? Any favorite brands?
JI: I am a bourbon drinker if you consider Jack Daniels bourbon! That may be a discussion for another time! I also like Maker's Mark. This year at Monmouth Park, they added Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale to the beer mix and it's a great add!
B&B: Before we let you go, can you tell us a little about the beaches and other attractions in Oceanport?
JI: The Borough of Oceanport, incorporated in 1920, is a predominantly residential community along the shores of the Shrewsbury River. Oceanport is home of Monmouth Park Racetrack and Fort Monmouth. Though only 3.2 square miles, Oceanport's nearly six thousand residents enjoy not only the Shrewsbury River, but various recreational sports programs, an active senior group and a true feeling of community. Oceanport has two great restaurants, a marina, a mini golf course and many parks. Oceanport boasts various volunteer organizations who give countless man hours to our community making it a place residents are proud to call home.
You can follow Joseph on Twitter at @josephirace or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/joseph.irace.