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Annual Far Hills Horse Races Draw Revelers from Near and Far

This Saturday, both locals and those who travel from far away to the event, will converge on this area for "The Hunt" in Far Hills.

In some circles, it's known simply as "The Hunt."

The Far Hills Race Meeting, a fundraiser for Somerset Medical Center that will be held, as it has since 1916, at Moorland Farm in Far Hills, is this week's suggested Great Escape for those who want to take a break at what some consider the social event of the season. Or maybe the year!

Each week, the Basking Ridge Patch will tell you about one great idea to give you a much deserved break, and make your life a little easier, maybe a whole lot more enjoyable.

This week, we're highlighting the annual steeplechase races that begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday, at Moorland Farms off Route 202 in Far Hills. But the gates open at 8 a.m. for the actual party to begin. And it's

The races reportedly attract 40,000 to 50,000 people, some who are local horse lovers or who each year reserve a parking spot to "tailgate" with fantastic spreads that may include everything from gourmet food to champagne, caviar and fine wines.

For those in the area, the race sometimes is a chance to hold a party every year and invited friends and family for the outdoor event, which is rain or shine. Area companies also rent tents at the top of the hill.

But there also is room at the race for the more average Eliza Doolittles of the world. Whether you're packing a lunch or arranging a catered affair through a local gourmet shop (or supermarket), the race has become an event that attracts all types of people.

There are those who may take the train in from another state, and walk in with general admission tickets, which cost $50 for advance purchase at numerous are purchase locations through Friday, Oct. 21. General admission tickets at $100 at the gate on the day of the races.

More information is on the website.

In recent years, the center has started holding a contest for an area singer — or singers — to  Last year's choice was the 

The Far Hills Race Meeting traces its origins to the Essex Hunt, a fox hunting event founded in Montclair, in 1870, the website says.

In the tradition of these clubs, the Essex Fox Hounds established an event to thank the farmers and landowners who allowed them to hunt on their property.

In 1916, the event moved from the original club site to the Grant B. Schley estate _ today known as Moorland Farm. Eventually becoming known as the Far Hills Race Meeting, the races have been continually run —with the exception of a short hiatus during World War II — on the same site, according to the history outlined on the website.

This October will mark the 91st running of the traditional race, featuring the steeplechasers from around the world competing against a backdrop of autumn leaves and rolling hills.

The event mixes society with sport, bringing families, race enthusiasts, organizations and corporations together for a day of racing, fashion, food, networking and celebration. Total race day purses will equal $550,000, with six races offering the highest purses on the National Steeplechase Association circuit, according to the website.

Since the 1950s, the annual event has raised over $17 million for Somerset Medical Center in downtown Somerville, and contributed to the 2007 contributed to the opening of the Steeplechase Cancer Center, also in Somerville. The annual fundraiser has been a major benefactor to support the medical center's growth and its ability to offer comprehensive medical services to area residents.

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