America’s best steeplechase horses in training will be challenged by an invasion of overseas runners in Saturday’s $400,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), America’s richest steeplechase race and the centerpiece of the Far Hills Races, central New Jersey’s fall festival of horse racing and family fun.
In all, the 97th annual Far Hills Races will feature five stakes races—featuring many of the top horses in their respective divisions—among its seven contests. Purses will total $800,000, a record for a National Steeplechase Association race meet.
The fan-friendly Far Hills meet also is expected to have the largest crowd in North American horse racing on Saturday, with a crowd approaching 40,000. Plus, the racing can be viewed internationally by live streaming video on the Far Hills website, farhillsrace.org. First post time is 1 p.m.
The Grand National will go a long way toward determining the year’s champion steeplechase horse, and nine worthy competitors will line up to face the starter for the 2 5/8-mile race over National Fences. Of those nine, three are based overseas.
The American-based contingent is highly competitive, and coming off a major, breakout victory is Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, who burst away from his opponents to win Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) by 1 1/4 lengths on Sept. 21.
Bred and trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, All the Way Jose is no stranger to Far Hills’ Moorland Farm course. Three years ago, he locked up the championship for novices—horses in their first years of racing over fences—by winning the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle.
Darren Nagle, who currently leads the NSA jockey standings, again will be in the saddle on All the Way Jose.
Robert A. Kinsley’s Modem, who began racing in the United States this summer, will be trying to attain the winner’s circle after three straight second-place finishes in Grade 1 races. In addition to his place finish in the Lonesome Glory, the British-bred gelding was second in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial and the New York Turf Writers Cup, both at Saratoga Race Course. Trainer Elizabeth Voss named Jack Doyle to ride.
Jack Fisher leads the NSA’s trainer standings by 10 races and more than a half-million dollars and is all but assured of his sixth straight title by wins and his fourth straight by purses. He is responsible for the youngest and the oldest members of the Grand National field.
The youngest at age six is Bruton Street-US’s Moscato, who has zoomed to the top of the earnings table in his first year of racing over fences. On the same Belmont program as the Lonesome Glory, the British-bred gelding roared away to a 3 1/2-length victory in the William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. Sean McDermott has the mount.
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No ‘Worries’: Worried Man takes Virginia Fall timber feature at Middleburg
Four Virginia Gents' 10-year-old defeated a tough field that included Cornhusker, Grand Manan, Straight To It, and Rodriguez in the $40,000 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup by a length and a quarter for home-course trainer Doug Fout and jockey Kieran Norris. Norris, the champion 2016 rider who had been sidelined for four months following a May spill at Radnor, now trails this season's leading rider, Darren Nagle, by four. Nagle, and Sean McDermott, who has 12 victories, were shut out at Middleburg. In the other feature, the $35,000 Randolph Rouse Memorial Handicap, Rosbrian Farm's Officer Sydney proved best for trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Ross Geraghty, who also has 10 triumphs in 2017. Tod Marks has the photo recap of the eight-race card.