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Clarcam, in white cap, set the pace in the Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 20. (Tod Marks photo)

The $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) will be a decidedly international affair at the Far Hills Races on Saturday after Irish and English trainers filled the entry box for a highly competitive edition of America’s richest steeplechase race.

The 2 5/8-mile Grand National will be the highlight of the 98th annual Far Hills Races, which will offer $900,000 in purses, a record for an American race meet. In partnership with Monmouth Park, Far Hills will conduct pari-mutuel wagering for the first time, and the meet’s high-definition video signal will be available on its website, www.farhillsrace.org.

In addition to the Grand National, the program will feature two divisions of the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices, or horses in their first seasons of racing over fences. Each division will carry a $125,000 purse.

Also on the card are the Gladstone Stakes for three-year-olds, the New Jersey Hunt Cup over timber, a ratings handicap, and a Sport of Kings maiden hurdle, each worth $50,000. All the races drew large fields.

While overseas trainers accounted for five of nine Grand National entries, several starters already have American owners. Prominent Irish trainer Gordon Elliott will take two shots at the Grand National after winning last year’s Foxbrook with Zanjabeel, who already is a two-time Grade 1 winner for his American owners, Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm.

In August, Rosbrian and Meadow Run acquired Clarcam, a veteran who has earned more than $600,000 in 49 career starts. Elliott shipped the Galway Steeplechase Plate winner to the U.S. for unplaced starts in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Irish-based jockey Jack Kennedy has the mount.

Elliott also will saddle Sideways Stable’s Jury Duty, who finished third to Clarcam in the €250,000 Galway Steeplechase Plate on Aug. 1. Robbie Power, also based in Ireland, will ride.

Danny Mullins, another top Irish jockey, won last year’s Grand National on Gillian Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff for trainer Jack Fisher, and he will again carry the owner’s silks aboard Days of Heaven, who will be making his first start for Fisher. Days of Heaven finished fifth in the 2016 Grand National for trainer Nicky Henderson.

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The jumpers headed South to Middleburg on Oct. 13 for the 8-race Virginia Fall Races that featured a bit of everything: hurdle races, timber runs, a couple of training flat affairs, and the ever-popular Steeplethon run over timber, water, and natural brush fences. Irv Naylor was back in the winner's circle for the opener, in which his Stormy Alex took the Ratings Handicap for Graham Watters and trainer Cyril Murphy. Sharon Sheppard's Undisclosed captured the Sport of Kings maiden hurdle, the first of three winners on the day for trainer Doug Fout and jockey Barry Foley. The duo struck again -- both times for owner Beverly Steinman -- with Shamsaan in a maiden claimer and Deposit in the finale on the flat. The biggest prize of the day, the $40,000 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup timber stakes went to Michael Smith's Le Chevalier and Jack Doyle, riding for Julie Gomena. Former jockey Willie Dowling saddled Jay Griswold's Katnap, with Darren Nagle up, to a 2 1/2-length tally in the Steeplethon. Gerard Galligan, riding for Kathy Neilson was a winner over timber as well, scoring with Nancy Reed's Handsome Hoyt by a eye-popping 27 lengths. The other flat winner was Sam-Son Farm's Aldous Snow, a 9-year-old stakes winner on the flat for the fabled Canadian stable, who is about to launch his jump career for trainer Neil Morris. Michael Mitchell rode the winner. Photographer Tod Marks has the recap.

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SOME FACTS ABOUT JUMP RACING IN NORTH AMERICA

$5,998,500

NSA PURSES IN 2017

480 HORSES

RAN IN 2017

+1,000,000

SPECTATORS EACH YEAR

12 STATES

HOST STEEPLECHASE RACES
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