The $400,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), America’s richest steeplechase race, has attracted strong international interest, with no fewer than five overseas challengers among 12 nominees to the centerpiece of the 97th annual Far Hills Races on Saturday, Oct. 21.
One of New Jersey’s premier sporting events, the Far Hills Races will be one of the richest days of Thoroughbred racing in North America that afternoon, with America’s largest racing crowd. In all, purses will total $800,000, and Far Hills’ five stakes races attracted strong contingents of nominees. First post time is 1 p.m.
Willie Mullins, the 10-time champion Irish jumps trainer, nominated two stable stars, Shaneshill and Ballycasey, to the 2 5/8-mile Grand National, whose $240,000 first-place purse will go a long way toward determining the year’s champion steeplechase horse.
Shaneshill is no stranger to the U.S. In 2016, he came within a neck of winning the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville. Owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie, the eight-year-old finished his 2016-2017 hurdle campaign with a second in the French champion hurdle and then came home second in Thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase in August.
Mullins sent Susannah Ricci’s Ballycasey and Shaneshill into Gowran Park’s PWC Champion Steeplechase as a tightener on Sept. 30, and they finished third and fourth, respectively.
Ballycasey has three wins on his 2017 record, most recently a dominant win over steeplechase fences in mid-May.
Joseph O’Brien, a rising young Irish trainer with both flat and jumps runners, nominated Katnap, a 10-year-old who finished second in Aintree’s Randox Health Topham Steeplechase in April. The trainer, son of renowned Coolmore trainer Aidan O’Brien, was a top flat jockey before beginning a training career that has had early successes.
Owner Robert Aplin and trainer Charlie Longsdon nominated recent winner Hammersly Lake for a chance at a second bite of Grand National purse money. Last year, Aplin’s Sharp Rise finished third in the Grand National. French-bred Hammersly Lake, a three-time winner in 2017, won the Sodexo Prestige Venues Steeplechase at Perth Hunt in September.
The American team is by no means overshadowed by the foreign competition. Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard nominated Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, winner of Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 21. Bred by Sheppard, All the Way Jose locked up the 2014 novice title with a victory in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle.
Also nominated to the Grand National from the Lonesome Glory were Robert Kinsley’s Modem, who was second for trainer Elizabeth Voss; Mighty Acorn Stables’ Casino Markets, the fifth overseas nominee who was fourth; Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, the fifth finisher; and Sonny Via’s Hinterland, who finished seventh.
Champion trainer Jack Fisher, who nominated Mr. Hot Stuff and Hinterland, also nominated Bruton Street-US’s Moscato, the year’s leading novice runner who leads the earnings table with $156,000.
Winner of his last two stakes starts, Moscato also was nominated to the $125,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices, or horses in their first years of competition over fences.
Trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. nominated Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, who graduated from the novice ranks in July with a 1 3/4-length victory over second-finisher Moscato in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. In his subsequent start, Show Court finished sixth in Saratoga’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1).
Completing the nominees is Irv Naylor’s Jamarjo, winner of the Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) in May for trainer Leslie Young. Naylor has won the last two editions of the Grand National, with Eclipse Award champions Dawalan in 2015 and Rawnaq last year.
Here are the nominees to the $400,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) in alphabetical order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association 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.) 2017 record: 5-2-1-2, $139,300. 2016 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $7,500. 2015 record: 3-0-0-0, $3,750. Won 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Won Fair Hill’s $40,000 Valentine Memorial ratings handicap by 15 1/4 lengths, then lost rider in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and was third in New York Turf Writers (Gr. 1). Finished third in 2017 Tryon Block House handicap, then was second in Iroquois ratings handicap. Clinched 2014 novice championship with Foxbrook Champion Hurdle victory. (136)
Ballycasey (Ire). 2007 gr. g., Presenting—Pink Mist, by Montelimar. Owner: Susannah Ricci. Trainer: Willie Mullins. Breeder: R. Tanner (Ire). 2017 NSA record: No starts. Veteran has three wins this year and earnings of nearly $100,000 after a similar season in 2006. His career earnings are approaching $400,000. Prepped with a distant third in the PWC Champion Steeplechase at Gowran Park in late September. Most recent starts have been on deep ground.
Casino Markets (Ire). 2008 br. g., Fruits of Love—Vals Dream, by Pierre. Owner: Mighty Acorn Stables. Trainer: Emma Lavelle. Breeder: Ms. V. Cronin (Ire). 2017 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $7,500. Showed some improvement when fourth in 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) after eighth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), his U.S. debut. From Wiltshire stable of innovative National Hunt trainer, had three consecutive wins in 2016 and two third-place finishes in the spring of 2017 at Cheltenham and Sandown. (132)
Hammersly Lake (Fr). 2008 b. g., Kapgarde—Loin de Moi, by Loupe Solitaire. Owner: Robert Aplin. Trainer: Charles E. Longsdon. Breeder: 3m. 1fabrice Simon (Fr). 2017 NSA record: No starts. Has been highly consistent over summer and fall with three wins and two seconds in England, most recently a four-length win in the Sodexo Prestige Venues Steeplechase Handicap at regional course Perth Hunt in September. Owner and trainer had a third with Sharp Rise in last year’s Grand National (Gr. 1).
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). 2017 record: 2-0-1-0, $36,000. 2016 record: No starts. 2015 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $27,000. Finished distant second in 2017 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), then was seventh in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished second in 2015 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), his second U.S. start after seventh in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). (135)
Jamarjo (Ire). 2007 b. g., Marju—Athlumney Lady, by Lycius. Owner; Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Leslie Young. Breeder: Frank Dunne (Ire). 2017 NSA record: 2-0-1-0, $35,400. 2016 record: 5-1-1-2, $55,500. 2015 record: 1-1-0-0, $15,000. Won Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 1) easily after second in Foxfield Spring’s 2017 Daniel Van Clief Memorial optional allowance hurdle. Finished second in Belmont Park’s 2016 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), then was fourth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). (136)
Katnap (Fr). 2007 bl. g., Sleeping Car—Kitty Gale, by Strong Gale. Owners: Finola Murphy, Ann Marie McManus, and Tahnee Grant. Trainer: Joseph O’Brien. Breeder: 2mme 1susan Bramall (Fr). 2017 NSA record: No starts. Finished a good second, beaten a length, in Randox Health Topham Handicap at Aintree in April. Tightened with handicap start at Navan in September. Trainer, son of Coolmore trainer Aidan O’Brien, is former top flat jockey who has had success as trainer on flat and over fences.
Modem (GB). 2010 b. g., Motivator—Alashaan, (GB), by Darshaan (GB). Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeders: Mr. and Mrs. D. J. Deer (GB). 2017 NSA record: 1-0-1-0, $27,000. Finished second in three 2017 New York jump races: Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), and Belmont’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), as favorite in all three races. Arrived in U.S. after allowance victory in provincial Irish track Ballinrobe. Durable gelding has seven wins in 47 career starts. (140)
Moscato (GB). 2011 gr. or ro. g., Hernando (Fr)—Alba Stella, by Nashwan. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Miss K. Rausing (GB). 2017 record: 6-4-2-0, $156,000. 2016 NSA record: No starts. Won Belmont Park’s 2017 William Entenmann Novice Stakes and Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes impressively after strong closing second in Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Won Queen’s Cup maiden by 7 1/4 lengths and Iroquois allowance hurdle by 6 1/2 lengths. (139)
Mr. Hot Stuff. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Tiznow—Sweet Damsel, by Turkoman. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: WinStar Farm (Ky.) 2017 record: 4-0-0-1, $11,000. 2016 record: No starts. Finished fifth in Belmont Park’s 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished third in 2017 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) after missing 2016 season, then was pulled up in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) and seventh in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Won 2015 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3). Won the 2013 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. (133)
Shaneshill (Ire). 2009 b. g., King’s Theatre (Ire)—Darabaka, by Dayoun. Owners Andrea and Graham Wylie. Trainer: Willie Mullins. Breeder: Declan Johnson (Ire). 2017 NSA record: No starts. 2016 NSA record: 1-0-1-0, $36,000. Finished respectable second in 2017 Thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase in early August and tightened with fourth in PWC Champion Steeplechase at Gowran Park in late September. Wound up 2016-2017 jumps season with third in French champion hurdle in June. Finished a valiant second, beaten a neck, in 2016 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1).
Show Court (Ire). 2009 b. g., Vinnie Roe—Sparking Gem, by Revoque. Owner: Mark W. Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Breeder: Grange Stud (Ire). 2017 NSA record: 5-2-1-0, $112,000. 2016 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Finished sixth in Saratoga’s 2017 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) after winning Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Won 2017 Carolina Cup by seven lengths, then finished second in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Finished distant fifth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Won maiden over hurdles in Ireland in late 2015. (133)