ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - The morning sun as it rises over the paddock. The sleekest of thoroughbred racers at ease, enjoying breakfast or a bath. The anticipation at the bugle’s blow, and the faces in the crowd — from famous celebrities to the folks next door — who make it all possible to take in a day of world-class racing on the Jersey Shore.
The energy, beauty and community of a season at Monmouth Park Racetrack is captured by official track photographer Bill Denver in “Racing at the Shore,” a solo exhibit of images going on display at the Blue Bay Inn in Atlantic Highlands. The exhibit kicks off with an opening reception on Thursday, September 16, a benefit for the Jockey Through Life Scholarship Fund at Brookdale Community College. (photo credit: BILL DENVER/ Equi-Photo)
For more than 25 seasons, Bill Denver of Equi-Photo has documented that scene as official photographer for Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport. And, beginning with a special cocktail reception on Thursday, September 16, the veteran lensman will offer a unique look inside the daily life of this iconic Monmouth County attraction, with an exhibit of recent photography entitled Racing at the Shore.
The setting for Denver’s first-ever solo show and reception will be the Blue Bay Inn, located just paces from the Manhattan ferry in picturesque Atlantic Highlands. The boutique hotel at 51 First Avenue is hosting the exhibit, which remains on display through September 28, in tandem with a pair of exciting weekend events at the track — the New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival (spotlighting the best of Jersey-bred horses) on September 18, and the Monmouth Park/Meridian Health Steeplechase Festival on September 25 (a benefit for K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital and a keynote event in the Park’s first Fall Meet card).
The retrospective also marks the success of the 2010 season’s Elite Summer Meet at Monmouth Park. The Meet and its “50/50” promotion — representing 50 days of racing at Monmouth Park, worth $50 million in purse money —finished “as a total triumph” on September 6, with triple-digit gains in average mutuel handle, as well as double-digit gains in average attendance and the highest daily purses in the nation. Racing just Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (plus three holiday Mondays), the 2010 Meet exceeded last year’s in total betting and on-track wagering.
It’s a testament to the tireless efforts and innovative thinking of the people who are charged with maintaining the integrity and economic viability of thoroughbred racing in New Jersey — none more so than Dennis Drazin, the former president of the NJ Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association who this year was appointed Chairman of the NJ Racing Commission. Mr. Drazin, a partner in the Red Bank-based law firm Drazin & Warshaw, will be honored for his work at the cocktail reception, hosted from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. on September 16.
With some 20 digital custom color prints offered for display and sale, the Racing at the Shore exhibit collects an array of images dating from the summer of 2010 and other recent seasons at Monmouth Park — including scenes from the 2007 Breeders Cup, an event that Denver, who’s also documented the action at year-round tracks in Pennsylvania and Florida, cites as “the most exciting time” of his career at the Shore.
A Shrewsbury resident whose freelance photojournalism work has been featured by the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal and the Daily News, Denver will be present at the show’s reception, proceeds of which will be dedicated to the Jockey Through Life Scholarship Fund at Brookdale Community College.
“Racing at the Shore is an exhibit that captures the vibrancy and power of quality racing,” observes Jacquie Dalton-Fiorito, a former thoroughbred jockey who established the scholarship in 2009. “Bill Denver is a gifted photographer, whose work brilliantly represents the sportsmanship, community, and environmental beauty that make this the Sport of Kings.
Tickets for the Thursday evening event are $25 per person, with reservations and additional information available by calling (732) 535-0773.
The Jockey Through Life Scholarship Fund at Brookdale Community College was established by Jacquie Dalton-Fiorito, a Brookdale alumna and former thoroughbred jockey, as a way to inspire and reward dedicated students who have faced “hurdles” in their journey to succeed. The annual $500 scholarship is awarded to a returning student (25 years of age or more) enrolled at Brookdale Community College, who plans to transfer to a four-year college or university upon graduation from BCC.