Irv Naylor’s Dawalan fought past resilient British invader Eshtiaal in Far Hills’ stretch to win the $300,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) by a length. Naylor, the National Steeplechase Association’s leading owner, just missed a one-two finish when his Rawnaq closed ground to finish third, a nose behind Will Salthouse’s and Mark McKay’s Eshtiaal.
Imported after this spring’s Grand National meet in England, Dawalan thrust himself into the wide-open battle for the NSA’s Lonesome Glory Champions Award and the year’s Eclipse Award with a highly professional victory over a high-class field. Still in the picture is Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, who misjudged a fence and finished last of nine in Grand National.
Cyril Murphy, Dawalan’s trainer, recorded his first Grade 1 victory as a trainer after riding a Grade 1 winner as a jockey. Dawalan ran the Grand National’s 4 5/8 miles in 4:57 1/5, the fast time since champion Good Night Shirt’s 4:54 1/5 in 2008.
Murphy believed that Naylor’s Peapack Stakes winner One Lucky Lady was the horse to beat in the day’s first race. He felt he had the best horse in the Grand National if Demonstrative did not run his best race.
“I thought we had to beat Demonstrative,” he said. “If we could beat him, it was going to take a very good effort to beat [Dawalan].” The French-bred five-year-old came into the Grand National from a third-place finish in his American debut, the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 24.
Ross Geraghty placed Dawalan in midpack as his stablemate Decoy Daddy set the early pace with Eshtiaal close behind him for more than two miles. On the final run down the backstretch, Demonstrative misjudged a fence, landed flat-footed, and lost all chance of victory, trainer Richard Valentine said.
As Decoy Daddy tired, Eshtiaal took over, but Dawalan closed stoutly, took the lead, and kept the dead-game English invader at bay. Rawnaq, making his first U.S. start since being unplaced in Ireland’s richest hurdle race, the Guinness Galway Hurdle, closed well to just miss second money.
Dawalan’s U.S. purses now total $195,000, placing him behind New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and Lonesome Glory winner Bob Le Beau, who prefers ground firmer than Far Hills and passed on the year’s richest race.
Remaining on the schedule of Grade 1 races is the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup at Camden, S.C., on Nov. 21. Murphy said he would take Dawalan back to Naylor’s Maryland farm. After checking out how the Grand National winner emerges from the race, the owner will decide whether to go on to the Colonial Cup and pursue the championship.
In 2011, Naylor’s Black Jack Blues won the Grand National on his way to the Lonesome Glory award as the year’s leading earner and the Eclipse Award.