Michael Buckley’s Brain Power proved to have all the power as he drew clear in Saturday’s $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) after favored Wicklow Brave fell at the last fence and pulled away to a 15-length victory in America’s richest steeplechase.
Wicklow Brave sustained a fractured right shoulder in the fall and was euthanized, New Jersey state veterinarian Stacey Romano reported.
Bruton Street US, which had a banner day with two victories in Far Hills’ seven stakes races, took the second and third spots with Scorpiancer and Moscato, respectively. Sideways Stable’s Jury Duty, the 2018 Grand National winner, finished fourth in a field of 12.
Sent off at 5.50-to-1, Brain Power ran the Grand National’s 2 5/8 miles in 4:55 3/5 on turf rated as good under jockey Nico de Boinville and paid $13 to win.
On a clear and seasonably warm afternoon in central New Jersey, Irish-based horses were expected to dominate the races, but the year’s biggest prize went to the England-based stable of veteran trainer Nicky Henderson.
Brain Power had won Cheltenham’s Unibet International Hurdle last December but was pulled up in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in April. Following the traditional summer break for National Hunt horses, the eight-year-old Kalanisi gelding was primed for a big effort in America.
Hudson River Farms’ Iranistan, coming back after nearly 14 months on the sidelines, broke sharply under Darren Nagle and set the pace with Wicklow Brave close behind him and Wendy Hendriks’ Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) winner Surprising Soul close behind them.
De Boinville placed Brain Power close to the leaders and powered over the fences in the early going. As the field completed two miles, De Boinville moved Brain Power into third place. “He placed me wherever I wanted to be,” he said.
Iranistan began to tire on the final turn, placing Wicklow Brave on the lead as Brain Power set sail for the final fence. Wicklow Brave met the fence wrong and toppled over it. Brain Power jumped the final obstacle without incident and drew away to the finish line.
Scorpiancer, the two-time Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) winner, finished second, a neck ahead of stablemate Moscato. Both are trained by Jack Fisher.
Jury Duty finished 18 ½ lengths farther back in fourth.
De Boinville said Brain Power flourished on the Far Hills turf. “He jumped very well, and he ran very well,” he said.