Billy Meister, an undisputed master of timber racing, has entered a formidable trio of proven veterans for the 111th Grand National, the middle jewel of Maryland’s timber triple crown on Saturday, April 20, in Butler. Meister will ride 2012 Grand National winner And the Eagle Flys, and he also will saddle two-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner Twill Do.
Post time is 3:15 p.m. for the 3 1/4-mile Grand National, the first race on the three-race program.
Lucy Goelet’s Twill Do warmed up with a fourth-place finish in last year’s Grand National before his second Hunt Cup win, following his 2010 Hunt Cup score. James Stierhoff will ride.
Mrs. William D. Class Jr.’s And the Eagle Flys set all the pace in last year’s Grand National and won by three lengths under Meister. He subsequently fell in the Maryland Hunt Cup. Meister’s third entrant is Irvin S. Naylor’s Alfa Beat, a stakes winner over steeplechase fences in Ireland who finished second in a division of the James Rush Streett Memorial at My Lady’s Manor on April 13.
Jack Fisher, who was both the overall champion trainer and timber champion trainer last year, entered Northwoods Stable’s Battle Op and Jeremy Batoff’s Prospectors Strike. Battle Op, who will be ridden by Connor Hankin, finished a game second in last year’s Hunt Cup, and Prospectors Strike finished sixth. Justin Batoff rides Prospectors Strike, who opened his 2013 season with a second in the John D. Schapiro Memorial at My Lady’s Manor.
Lucy Stable’s Justpourit finished fourth in the Schapiro, his prep race for the Grand National. George Hundt Jr. rides Justpourit, who is trained by Richard Valentine.
Trainer Blythe Miller Davies entered Gerry L. Brewster’s Brands Hatch and Welcome Here Farm’s Fort Henry. Timber veteran Brands Hatch won last year’s Western Run Plate at the Grand National, and he will again be ridden by Jackson Roberts. Ivan Dowling will be aboard Fort Henry, who finished third in the Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial last year.
Sanna Hendriks entered ROXY Stable’s Guts for Garters, most recently third in the 2012 Virginia Gold Cup after a close second in the Grand National’s Murray. Jody Petty has the mount. Hendriks’ father, Paddy Neilson, entered Rosbrian Farm’s Garryowen Star, an Irish-bred 11-year-old who would be making his first start in two years and his first in the U.S.
Completing the field is Merrifield Farm’s Foyle, who began his timber career last fall and won a Pennsylvania Hunt Cup maiden race.