America’s richest steeplechase race, the $300,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) on Oct. 17, took on a decided international flavor when a phalanx of overseas-based horses was nominated to the featured race of the 95th annual Far Hills Races in New Jersey.
The 2 5/8-mile Grand National attracted 13 nominees, and five of them made their most recent starts overseas. Their trainers include top English horsemen Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott, and champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins.
Arrayed against the invasion will be the defending Eclipse Award winner, Demonstrative, and fellow Grade 1 winner Mr. Hot Stuff. Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative had two consecutive lackluster efforts at Saratoga Race Course after winning the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 9. Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff finished second in that Nashville race.
One of the leading contenders from the overseas contingent is Willie and Mark Mckay’s Eshtiaal, a Kentucky-bred who reeled off three victories over hurdles last spring and ran well in long-distance flat races over the summer for trainer Elliott.
Atlantic Equine’s Hunt Ball returns to Far Hills riding a three-race winning streak in England. Now trained by Henderson, Hunt Ball was unplaced in the 2013 Grand National.
Leading American owner Irv Naylor nominated five contenders to the Grand National, a race he won in 2011 with eventual Eclipse Award champion Black Jack Blues. His 2015 team, all trained by Cyril Murphy, includes Grade 3 winner Able Deputy, multiple Grade 3 winner Decoy Daddy, and recently imported Rawnaq.
Here are the nominees to the $300,000 Grand National (Gr. 1).
Able Deputy (GB). 2007 b. g., Lomitas (GB)—Island Colony, by Pleasant Colony. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeders: Charles and David Hodge (GB). 2014 NSA record: 2-1-0-0, $30,000. Easily won International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) in October 2014. In U.S. debut, finished a disappointing seventh in Virginia Fall’s W. Gary Baker Memorial despite formidable record from England. Won Worcester’s 2014 Toteplacepot Handicap.
Alajmal. 2008 b. g., First Samurai—Alattrah, by Shadeed. Owner: Gregory D. Hawkins. Trainer: Janet Elliot. 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).
All Together. 2005 b. g., Danzig–Unify, by Farma Way. Owner-trainer: David Jacobson. 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).
Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. 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.
Daneking (GB). 2009 b. g., Dylan Thomas (Ire)—Sadie Thompson, by King’s Best. Owner: Mrs. S. Ricci. Trainer: Willie Mullins. Breeder: Sir Eric Parker (GB). 2015 NSA record: No starts. Had two second-place finishes in hurdle handicaps before failing to finish in Cork allowance hurdle.
Dawalan. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Azamour (Ire)—Daltawa, by Miswaki. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. 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.
Decoy Daddy (Ire). 2002 ch. g., Lord of Appeal–Young Bebe, by M. Double M. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. 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, Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3), 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. 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 Handicap (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: Willie and Mark Mckay. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. 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.
Hisaabaat (Ire). 2008 b. g., Dubawi—Phariseek, by Rainbow Quest. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Ballylinch Stud (Ire). 2015 NSA record: No starts. Recent purchase from Dermot Weld’s stable finished third in allowance hurdle in August after unplaced finish in rich Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle. Won allowance hurdle in July.
Hunt Ball (Ire). 2005 b. g., Winged Love—La Fandango, by Taufan. Owner: Atlantic Equine. Trainer: Nicky Henderson. 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.
Mr. Hot Stuff. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Tiznow—Sweet Damsel, by Turkoman. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: WinStar Farm (Ky.). 2015 NSA record: 2-1-1-0, $57,000. 2014 record: No starts. Opened 2015 with win in Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) on April 18, then was second by a neck to Demonstrative in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Returned to races after winning Saratoga’s 2013 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and finishing fourth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Won Iroquois Steeplechase’s 2013 Marcellus Frost for novices. Maiden flat winner finished third in 2009 Santa Anita Derby (Gr. 1), 15th in the Kentucky Derby (Gr. 1), and eighth in the Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1).
Rawnaq (Ire). 2007 b. g., Azamour (Ire)—Sharemata, by Dayoun (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. 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.