The $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), North America’s richest steeplechase race and the centerpiece of the 98th annual Far Hills Races, is likely to have its largest overseas presence ever after 13 horses were nominated for the classic hurdle race.
The Grand National will headline a Far Hills program on Saturday, Oct. 20, offering $850,000 in purses, the most ever for a National Steeplechase Association race meet. For the first time, Far Hills, in partnership with Monmouth Park, will offer pari-mutuel wagering under the supervision of the New Jersey Racing Commission.
Of the 13 nominees, five had their most recent races overseas, and they will be looking to overtake Zanjabeel, a Grand National nominee who made his U.S. debut last fall at Far Hills and easily won the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott.
Purchased by Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm, Zanjabeel was turned over to Pennsylvania trainer Ricky Hendriks and now leads the 2018 earnings table after back-to-back victories in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) and Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1).
A prominent Irish trainer, Elliott nominated two contenders to this year’s Grand National. Clarcam, also owned by Rosbrian and Meadow Run, has started twice in the U.S. and most recently finished sixth in the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park after setting the early pace.
His second nominee is Sideways Stable’s Jury Duty, who has been competitive in top events in Ireland. He finished third to front-running winner Clarcam in the thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase in early August.
British owner Robert Aplin has nominated Hammersly Lake for a return trip to central New Jersey. Trained by Charlie Longsdon, the French-bred finished fifth in last year’s Grand National and has followed a similar path to this year’s 2 5/8-mile race by winning the Sodexo Prestige Venues Steeplechase Handicap at Perth Hunt for a second straight year.
A year earlier, Aplin’s Sharp Rise finished third in the Grand National.
Two rising young trainers were represented in the Grand National nominations. Ben Pauling, based in England’s Cotwolds, nominated Bruton Street-US’s Jaleo, a steeplechase allowance winner in June.
Emmet Mullins, a former steeplechase jockey and the nephew of leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins, nominated his Tornado Watch, a two-time winner over fences in the spring and a maiden flat winner in August.
The fifth overseas starter is Gillian Johnston’s Days of Heaven, who finished fifth in the 2016 Grand National for trainer Nicky Henderson. A three-time winner over steeplechase fences last year, Days of Heaven is now trained by Jack Fisher. Johnston won last year’s Grand National with Fisher-trained Mr. Hot Stuff.
The American contingent certainly has some firepower. Fisher nominated Sonny Via’s Hinterland, a hard-closing second to Zanjabeel in the Lonesome Glory.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard nominated Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, who finished third, two noses behind Mr. Hot Stuff, in last year’s Grand National. The Sheppard-bred eight-year-old most recently finished sixth in the New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1).
Irv Naylor nominated his Dawalan, the 2015 Grand National winner who has not raced in more than 17 months. The 2015 Eclipse Award winner is trained by Cyril Murphy, and trainer Leslie Young nominated Naylor’s Indian Hawk, who finished seventh in his first U.S. start, Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes.
Young also nominated Michael A. Smith’s Mercoeur, third in the Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 19.
Coming off a nearly 15-month break is The Fields Stable’s Portrade, winner of the 2016 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Elizabeth Voss-trained Portrade finished fourth in Saratoga Race Course’s 2017 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Here are the 13 nominees to the $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1). The horses NSA ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Buttonwood Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2018 record: 4-0-0-0, $ 16,000. 2017 record: 7-2-1-3, $179,300. Finished distant fifth in 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was sixth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. Began 2018 with third in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) at Middleburg Spring, then fell in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Won 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished third in Grand National (Gr. 1), beaten two noses. Novice champion in 2014. (140)
Clarcam (Fr). 2019 b. g., Califet (Fr)—Rose Beryl, by Lost World. Owner: Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Breeder: Jean Michel & Dominique LeBreton. 2018 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $5,250. Lost all chance in 2018 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) when he stumbled at the third from last fence and his jockey lost an iron. Set pace in Belmont’s Lonesome Glory Handicap on Sept. 20 and faded to finish sixth. In final overseas start, won €250,000 Galway Plate Steeplechase by six lengths at 33-to-1 odds. Unplaced in two previous 2018 starts, 11th in Guinness Handicap and in Randox Health Topham Steeplechase. Durable steeplechaser would be making his 50th career start and seeking his 11th win. (149)
Dawalan (Fr). 2010 gr. or ro. g., Azamour (Ire)—Daltawa, by Miswaki. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeder: Aga Khan Studs (Fr). 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2016 record: No starts. 2015 NSA record: 3-2-0-1, $255,000. Won 2015 Eclipse Award with victories in the Grand National (Gr. 1) and Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Attempting comeback after 17 months on the sidelines. In only 2017 start, was pulled up in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1).
Days of Heaven (Fr). 2010 dk. b. g., Saint des Saintes—Daramour, by Anabaa Blue (GB). Owner: Gillian Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Guilhaine le Borgne. 2018 NSA record: No starts. 2016 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $14,000. In U.S. debut, finished fifth in the 2016 Grand National (Gr. 1) for prominent American owner. Reeled off three straight handicap wins over steeplechase fences last year in England for trainer Nicky Henderson.
Hammersly Lake (Fr). 2008 b. g., Kapgarde—Loin de Moi, by Loupe Solitaire. Owner: Robert Aplin. Trainer: Charles E. Longsdon. Breeder: Fabrice Simon (Fr). 2018 NSA record: No starts. 2017 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $16,000. In preparation for another assault on Grand National (Gr. 1), won Sodexo Prestige Venues Steeplechase Handicap at regional course Perth Hunt for second straight year. Finished fifth in 2017 Grand National. Owner and trainer had a third with Sharp Rise in 2016 Grand National.
Hinterland (Fr). 2008 b. g., Poliglote (GB)—Queen’s Place, by Diamond Prospect. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Eric Aubree and Christian Bresson (Fr). 2018 record: 3-0-1-0, $41,250. 2017 record: 2-0-1-0, $36,000. Finished closing second in Belmont Park’s 2018 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Opened 2018 with fourth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1), then finished sixth in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). (132)
Indian Hawk (Ire). 2012 b. g., Westerner—Yorkshire Girl, by Anshan. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Leslie F. Young. Breeder: Patrick Fennessy (Ire). 2018 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. In U.S. debut, finished seventh in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. Concluded his career in England with 10-length victory in a steeplechase allowance at Wincanton in May. In previous start, was second as odds-on favorite in a steeplechase allowance at Towcester. (133)
Jaleo (Ger). 2012 ch. g., New Approach (Ire)—Jambalaya (Ger), by Samum (Ger). Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Ben Pauling. Breeder: (Ger). 2018 NSA record: No starts. Making his first U.S. start in a difficult spot. Has been racing well in moderate allowance steeplechases in England for up-and-coming trainer.
Jury Duty (Ire). 2011 b. g., Well Chosenn (GB)—Swan Heart (Ire), by Broken Hearted (Ire). Owner: Sideways Syndicate. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Breeder: T. Carroll (Ire). 2018 NSA record: No starts. Finished third to Clarcam in 2018 thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase and then was seventh in Guinness Kerry National Steeplechase before second in PWC Champion Chase at Gowell on Oct. 6 as prep for Grand National (Gr. 1).
Mercoeur (Fr). 2011 gr. or ro. g., Archange d’Or (Ire)—Erivia, by Kendor. Owner: Michael A. Smith. Trainer: Leslie Young. Breeder: Ambrose Dupont (Fr). 2018 record: 3-0-0-2, $16,250. 2017 record: 4-2-1-0, $54,550. 2016 record: 4-1-0-2, $19,500. Finished third in 2018 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 2) and then was fourth in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). Also third in National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on soft ground at Radnor. Won Montpelier’s 2017 Noel Laing after fourth in Far Hills’ 2017 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. (125)
Portrade (Ire). 2009 b. g., Trade Fair (GB)—Portorosa, by Irish River (Fr). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeder: Keene Bloodstock (Ire). 2017 record: 3-0-1-0, $19,000. 2016 record: 4-1-0-2, $111,800. 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,500. Coming back after more than a year, following fourth in 2017 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Opened 2017 with game second in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3), then faded to fourth in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Won the 2016 New York Turf Writers (Gr. 1) after setting all the pace, then was third in David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) at International Gold Cup. (130)
Tornado Watch (Ire). 2009 ch. g., Selkirk—Pattimech, by Nureyev. Owner-trainer: Emmet Mullins. Breeder: Airlie Stud (Ire). 2018 NSA record: No starts. Two-time winner over hurdles this past spring has been racing on the flat of late and won his maiden victory at age 9 in August. Owner-trainer, a former jockey, is 28 and the nephew of top Irish trainer Willie Mullins.
Zanjabeel (GB). 2013 b. g., Aussie Rules—Grain Only, by Machiavellian. Owners: Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Kirsten Rausing (GB). 2018 record: 4-2-2-0, $265,500. 2017 NSA record: 2-2-0-0, $120,000. Won 2018 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) after second-place finishes in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Won Far Hills’ 2017 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, his U.S. debut for former owners and trainer Gordon Elliott. For new owners, won Steeplechase at Callaway’s Aflac Supreme Hurdle by 2 3/4 lengths. (152)