Two England-based horses with impressive recent records will challenge reigning Eclipse Award champion Demonstrative and four runners from Irv Naylor’s formidable stable in Saturday’s $300,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), the featured race of the 95th annual Far Hills Races in New Jersey.
The 2 5/8-mile Grand National, America’s richest steeplechase race, headlines a seven-race program that features full fields and $600,000 in purses, the highest ever for a National Steeplechase Association race meet.
Also on the program are the $100,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices, the $50,000 Peapack Stakes for fillies and mares, and the $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup over timber. First post time is 1 p.m. at Moorland Farm.
Leading the British invasion is William Salthouse’s and Mark McKay’s Eshtiaal, a Kentucky-bred who scored three consecutive victories by open lengths in Irish handicaps last spring. Trainer Gordon Elliott placed the five-year-old Dynaformer horse in long-distance turf races over the summer, and Eshtiaal won the John Smith Stayers Stakes at York in July. Barry Geraghty, a top jockey and brother of U.S.-based Ross Geraghty, will ride.
Making a return trip to New Jersey and the Grand National is Atlantic Equine’s Hunt Ball, who scored three straight victories in English allowance hurdles over the summer. In 2013, Hunt Ball shipped into Far Hills and finished ninth in the Grand National. Regular jockey Andrew Tinkler will be in the saddle for trainer Nicky Henderson.
Carrying the American hopes will be Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, last year’s Grand National winner and American champion. The stalwart Elusive Quality gelding will have something to prove after two lackluster efforts at Saratoga.
Trainer Richard Valentine skipped Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) to prepare for the Grand National, and regular jockey Robbie Walsh will be in the saddle.
Leading American owner Irv Naylor entered veterans Decoy Daddy and Charminster as well as two newcomers to American racing, Dawalan and Rawnaq. All four are trained by Cyril Murphy.
Carol-Ann Sloan has the mount on Decoy Daddy, who is seeking his first Grade 1 victory at age 13. He had three Grade 3 victories in his three starts last year, and he most recently finished second in the National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at the Radnor Hunt Races in Pennsylvania in May.
Charminster finished fourth in the Lonesome Glory, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths, on Sept. 24 after a third-place finish in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) on Aug. 27. Darren Nagle will ride the nine-year-old Irish-bred.
In his first U.S. start, Dawalan nosed out Charminster for third in the Lonesome Glory, and Rawnaq will be making his first start on American shores. Ross Geraghty rides Dawalan, and Jack Doyle has the mount on Rawnaq, an allowance winner in Ireland in June.
Owner-trainer David Jacobson’s All Together and Gregory Hawkins’ Alajmal enter the Grand National from unplaced finishes in the Lonesome Glory. All Together, a Saratoga claim by the New York flat trainer, will be ridden by Willie McCarthy.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot saddles Alajmal, who is returning to the races after a year-long absence. Winner of the 2013 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1), Alajmal will be ridden by Bernie Dalton.
Here is the field for the $300,000 Grand National.
Rawnaq (Ire). 2007 b. g., Azamour (Ire)—Sharemata, by Dayoun (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Jim Monaghan (Ire). 2015 NSA record: No starts. Won an allowance hurdle at Down Royal in June and then finished close second in Bellewstown handicap hurdle stakes. Lost rider in his most recent start, the Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle.
All Together. 2005 b. g., Danzig–Unify, by Farma Way. Owner-trainer: David Jacobson. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Jayeff B Stables (Ky.). 2015 NSA record: 7-0-2-2, $44,750. 2014 record: 7-1-3-0, $62,000. Classy, consistent Danzig gelding was claimed by New York flat trainer from an Aug. 5 optional allowance hurdle for $30,000 and spun right back with fourth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and a third in a Saratoga optional allowance hurdle on Sept. 2. Finished fifth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 24. Won Virginia Fall’s 2014 W. Gary Baker Memorial, then finished second in International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3).
Alajmal. 2008 b. g., First Samurai—Alattrah, by Shadeed. Owner: Gregory D. Hawkins. Trainer: Janet Elliot. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeder: Shadwell Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $6,000. 2014 NSA record: No starts. In first race in 14 months, finished fifth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), then was eighth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Bookended his 2013 season with victories in the Carolina Cup and Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1).
Dawalan. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Azamour (Ire)—Daltawa, by Miswaki. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Aga Khan Studs (Fr). 2015 NSA record: 1-0-0-1, $15,000. In first U.S. start, finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 24. Accomplished handicap hurdler was overwhelmed in two handicap stakes at Cheltenham and Aintree this past spring before being imported.
Hunt Ball (Ire). 2005 b. g., Winged Love—La Fandango, by Taufan. Owner: Atlantic Equine. Trainer: Nicky Henderson. Jockey: Andrew Tinkler. Breeder: Michael Slevin (Ire). 2015 NSA record: No starts. Reeled off three consecutive allowance hurdle victories in England after fourth in Aintree’s Crabbies Topham Steeplechase. Finished ninth in 2013 Grand National (Gr. 1).
Decoy Daddy (Ire). 2002 ch. g., Lord of Appeal–Young Bebe, by M. Double M. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Carol-Ann Sloan. Breeder: Charles Persee (Ire). 2015 record: 2-0-2-0, $9,000. 2014 record: 3-3-0-0, $87,000. Finished second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by subsequent Grade 1 winner, in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 16 after disqualification in Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) on April 18. Mirrored his 2013 victories with scores in 2014 Temple Gwathmey, National Hunt Cup, and Noel Laing Handicap, his fourth win in that race.
Demonstrative. 2007 b. g., Elusive Quality–Loving Pride, by Quiet American. Owner: Jacqueline Ohrstrom. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Robbie Walsh. Breeder: Gainsborough Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: 4-2-0-1, $117,000. 2014 record: 6-3-1-1, $362,500. Lacked his usual late kick and finished third in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 6 before being pulled up in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Scored his second victory in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 9. Secured 2014 Eclipse Award with consecutive Grade 1 victories in New York Turf Writers Cup, Lonesome Glory Handicap, and Grand National. Also won 2012 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Was 2010 three-year-old champion.
Eshtiaal. 2010 b. h., Dynaformer—Enfiraaj, by Kingmambo. Owners: William Salthouse and Mark McKay. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Jockey: Barry Geraghty. Breeder: Shadwell Farm (Ky.) 2015 NSA record: No starts. His three consecutive hurdle wins this past spring were all by open lengths. Ran on flat this summer and won John Smith Stayers Stakes at York in July.
Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Raymond Cahalane (Ire). 2015 record: 5-1-0-2, $57,000. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $11,700. Finished third in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) on Aug. 27, then fourth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 24. Won Ratings Handicap at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 9.