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Booze to be Cut Off at General Admission Gates For Far Hills Races

Changes agreed upon by all involved parties in aftermath of complaints following last October's Race Meeting.

General admission ticket holders at future Far Hills Race Meetings no longer will be permitted to bring alcohol in through the gates to Moorland Farm, where the races are held each October, in a major change for the fundraising social event that dates back to the early 20th century.

Guy Torsilieri, co-chairman for the steeplechase horse races, informally known as "The Hunt," said that alcohol still will be permitted at corporate tents, catered affairs and for ticket holders who rent spots to host tailgate parties.

But the 46 percent of other racegoers, who park outside the gates, take the train or are dropped off to enter the property through one of three general admission gates, will be subject to pat-downs and wand searches for alcohol, as they would be at other large sporting events, Torsilieri said.

The change in rules at the race is a reaction to complaints about excessive and underage drinking at the event. The annual event is a fundraiser for the Somerset Medical Center that usually attracts about 40,000 attendees from nearby and from other states, including on trains from New York City.

"You can no longer fill up your little red wagon and bring in cases of vodka and beer," Torsilieri said, referring to what have been large quantities of alcohol brought in by some racegoers.

At this point, the plan is to allow general admission ticket holders to consume alcohol only if they are invited to a tailgate or tented catered party on the other side of the race area, Torsilieri said.

In response to a question, Torsilieri said that general admission ticketholders would not be allowed to bring alcohol back from that party.

"You have to be an invited guest. You would walk in and out," he said. "A bartender would pour you a drink in a glass."

The races, a Somerset Hills tradition, has raised millions for the Somerset Medical Center in Somerville over previous decades. The Steeplechase Cancer even is named in honor of the horse racing event.

Torsilieri said that the Somerset Medical Center is "absolutely" in total agreement on the change in rules. He said he is "in step" with Paul Stahlin, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Somerset Medical Center, on the new revisions.

Rules could be revised again before next October

Torsilieri unveiled the change in procedure before the Far Hills Council on Monday night, but he said he has been discussing changes with officials and the race committee for several months.

"This still is a work in progress," he said of the revision of rules for The Hunt.

One possibility that has been discussed is having alcohol sold on the property on race day, under controlled circumstances.

"We are still trying to figure out what we can and can't do," Torsilieri said.

He said the organizers still want the Far Hills Race Meeting to be a "fabulous" event for thousands. To provide some perspective, he said that about two dozen arrests were made among last year's crowd. Violations were issued for such alleged offenses as drug use, underage drinking and urinating in public.

But the days of an unlimited supply of booze coming in with crowds heading to an open field are definitely over, Torsilieri said.

Bernardsville police chief said he appreciates effort to curb alcohol consumption at race

Bernardsville Police Chief Kevin Valentine, who in previous years has said that drunken racegoers either park, party, or get on or off the train in Bernardsville, said on Tuesday, "Any effort to reduce the amount of alcohol consumption at the race will likely alleviate some of the alcohol-related public safety concerns that are presented on the day of the races."

"I personally appreciate the effort the Race committee is making to deal with these concerns," Valentine said.

EJ Weiner February 28, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Finally. I was in a volunteer tent right next to the crossing and witnessed two very young women receive EMT attention for what looked like serious substance issues, probably alcohol. Between the wandering drunk hoards and the mud, it was awful.
delwood dame March 02, 2013 at 12:49 PM
It's about time. This is a fundraiser for a medical center for goodness sake! I will not allow my children to go any longer.
Jim Copeland March 02, 2013 at 01:56 PM
Well I guess that I wont be going there anymore. Alcohol was the only way that I could cut down on the boredom.
John Brown March 03, 2013 at 07:35 PM
No picnic tailgate, no alcohol. Good solution. Stay out Malibu Lebowski.
KP March 04, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Funny!
Roseann Nardone March 05, 2013 at 01:14 AM
I think we all know what goes on there : ( DO NOT BRING OR LET YOUR UNDER AGED/ TEEN ATTEND THE HUNT : )
Skip March 08, 2013 at 03:38 PM
I think this resolution might help. I'm assuming the majority of people arrested for acting stupid during the Hunt are not local residents. I've been attending the Hunt for roughly 35 years. Things are a lot different now then they were 35 years ago. I would guess that currently, half the attendees don't even know there is horse racing going on. Children in general are far more disrespectful then they were back then and for some reason parents are far more likely to allow their children to drink alcohol in excess at this event. It use to be a respectable horse event. Actually, back in the day there were even pony races prior to the professional races where local kids could race on the course for trophy's. You went to the Hunt for the horse racing. Back then you never saw someone so drunk they couldn't stand and you never saw teenagers falling down drunk. It really has evolved into, for lack of a better description, a drunk fest. Quite frankly, its amazing there are only a couple dozen arrests each year.
William Demarest April 01, 2013 at 03:19 PM
I don't see any reason not to allow my kids to bring in alcohol. At least they're not out driving around town drunk. It's a controlled environment which will allow them some time to loosen up and relax from their studies (I have two in Masters programs) and let them see how the upper crust from long ago lived. Besides, it's just plain fun at the Hunt!!
SMBV April 26, 2013 at 02:48 PM
too little too late. last year getting barfed on by a drunken lady was enough for me. been going my whole life but never again.

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