The names Haskell and Iselin are the most prominent in the illustrious history of the track. Amory L. Haskell was instrumental in once again getting pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing legalized in New Jersey, and then in the construction of the modern racetrack. Appointed president and chairman of Monmouth Park Jockey Club in 1945, Haskell was at the helm of the organization until his death in 1966. Philip H. Iselin also played a key role in launching the track and was appointed treasurer in 1946. He succeeded Haskell in 1966 and was the president and chairman of the board until he passed away 10 years later.
Nevertheless, their involvement in racing at Monmouth Park is far more than ceremonial.
“I love coming back here. There is no place like home,” Iselin said while standing on the backside renewing acquaintances in the morning on September 29 before he saddled No Questions in the afternoon. “It is very nostalgic for me to be here. We lived right across the street (on the old Wolf Hill Training Center property) and my mother and father are buried across the street. When I drove through the stable gate, an awful lot of wonderful memories came flooding back.”
Jones’s horse, trained by Rory Huston, won the last race on the card on September 22 to become her first winner this year.
“I can remember when Monmouth Park was built, and I still love racing and the horses,” said Jones, 78. “When I was young, I used to have to watch the races from the backside because my father was a stickler for the rules and minors weren’t allowed to be on the front side. My mother loved the horses, too. She was the one who got my father interested in this. After she was killed in an automobile accident in 1946, my father took over with a vengeance.”
Mr. Haskell was president of the Thoroughbred Racing Association from 1945 to 1955 and he and his wife bred horses as well as owned them. Jones said that Blue Sparkler, for whom a stakes race for fillies and mares at Monmouth is named, was their best horse.
“The horse who won on Saturday was a great-great-great granddaughter of Blue Sparkler,” Jones said with pride. “My sister and I both breed horses and keep mares at Overbrook Farm (in Colts Neck, New Jersey) but she has different lines than I do. She lives in Modena, Italy for part of the year and has introduced some Italian blood lines into some of her horses.”
Isabelle Haskell De Tomaso, who is the widow of international racecar driver and Italian automobile magnate Alejandro DeTomaso, bred and owns Irish Politics. The 2-year-old son of Political Force by the Polish Numbers mare Irish Sovereign was the runaway winner of a maiden special weight race on September 15, the day of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival at Monmouth Park for state-breds. Trainer Graham Motion has nominated the colt to the $60,000 Jersey Juvenile here on October 6 and the sisters hope to be on-hand to watch him run.
“It’s great fun having Monmouth Park so close by so I can come over and see my horses and my sister’s horses race,” said Jones, who maintains homes in Red Bank, N.J. and Palm Beach, Fla.
Iselin, who bred the multiple graded stakes winning Bandini but sold the colt to Michael Tabor and John Magnier before he got to the races, doesn’t have any stakes winners in his barn these days. This year he has started only three horses and No Questions is his only winner.
“I bought Bandini’s dam but you never look back,” said Iselin, who has been close friends with Super Bowl winning quarterback “Broadway” Joe Namath since the 1960s when his father was part owner and president of the New York Jets. “I have nine in training right now and I’m based at Aqueduct. I still love it. It’s a great lifestyle.”
Iselin said that his father and Leon Hess, who was also a member of the consortium that purchased the Jets in 1963 and changed the name of the franchise from the New York Titans, gave him the first three horses that he conditioned . They bought Chief Tamanaco from (Hall of Fame trainer) Lucien Laurin.
“He won the Bold Ruler (in 1976) so my father got to see me win a stakes race,” he said. “My father had a heart attack and died two days later.”
No Questions is a descendant of Mr. Prospector and Iselin once owned a share of the greatest sire of his generation. He remembers Crafty Prospector, a son of Mr. Prospector who won seven of 10 starts in 1981-83 and never finished out of the money, fondly as “my great horse”.
“The horse I’m running today in a $5,000 claiming race, I keep him because he’s part of the family,” Iselin said.
So are Jones, De Tomaso and Iselin, and they always will be at Monmouth Park.