Sideways Syndicate’s Jury Duty, the heavily favored vanguard of an unprecedented Irish invasion, took command on the final turn of the Far Hills Races’ $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) on Saturday and rolled clear to a 3 1/4-length victory in America’s richest hurdle race.
Owner-trainer Emmet Mullins’ Tornado Watch launched a big move on Far Hills’ final turn to finish second and complete an Irish exacta. Two American contenders, Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose and Harold A. “Sonny” Via’s Hinterland, ran third and fourth, respectively in a field of nine.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, who has made American jump racing a profitable adjunct of his successful Irish stable, Jury Duty went off as the 13-to-10 favorite and paid $4.60 to win after running the Grand National’s 2 5/8 miles in 5:14.80.
The jury was out on the verdict for some time as the Far Hills stewards examined a late change of lanes by Jury Duty. Tornado Watch’s jockey, David Mullins, claimed foul, but the original order of finish was left unchanged.
Robbie Power, who shipped in with a squad of overseas jockeys for the Far Hills card, gave Jury Duty a tactical ride on a solid favorite, keeping the seven-year-old Well Chosen gelding outside and quiet while in the second flight behind a pace set first by Elliott-trained Clarcam and then by Bruton Street-US’s outsider Jaleo, who shipped in from England for trainer Ben Pauling.
Jury Duty and Power powered past the fading speed on the final turn as Tornado Watch, All the Way Jose, and Hinterland launched their bids. The American contenders failed to make a lasting impression, but Mullins switched Tornado Watch to the inside and was in striking range.
Bending into the stretch, Jury Duty dropped to the inside, and Mullins took up on Tornado Watch. Both riders continued to ride to the wire, with Jury Duty widening his advantage to the finish line.
Jury Duty arrived in the U.S. with solid credentials, including a third behind Clarcam in the €250,000 thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase in early August. He galloped over the Far Hills course on Thursday and moved well over the surface.
Belisarius rules first Foxbrook division
Belisarius may have been bred in Ireland and is trained in South Carolina, but he’s a Jersey kind of horse. He loved Monmouth Park largely on the front end in August, and he made a powerful late move at Far Hills to win the first division of the $125,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle by 6 1/4 lengths.
Belisarius opened up approaching the final fence of the 2 1/2-mile Foxbrook, and after a glance backward jockey Bernie Dalton began congratulating the Montjeu gelding 50 yards before the finish line.
Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul, who had led through the middle portion of the Foxbrook, held off a late move by Gillian Johnston’s Mutasaawy for second. Riverdee Stable’s City Dreamer finished fourth.
Belisarius is owned by Gary Barber, Brous Stable, and Wachtel Stable, all well-known names in flat racing. Barber mentioned to trainer Kate Dalton that Belisarius probably would be his next steeplechase horse, following in the footsteps of 2016 novice champion African Oil.
Although Belisarius was running well in Northern California last fall for a claiming price, Barber and his partners shipped him to the Daltons in Camden, S.C., in January.
He progressed steadily, through two third-place finishes, a close second at the Iroquois Steeplechase in May, and then his maiden victory at Monmouth on Aug. 9, his most recent race.
Dalton figured that Belisarius would need to make a late run to take the Foxbrook, and he was assisted by an early burst of speed by Bobabout at the start. “I knew they were going a good gallop,” Dalton said.
On the first full circuit of the well-manicured Far Hills course, Grade 3 stakes winner Surprising Soul took the lead and showed every sign of holding on. Dalton edged Belisarius into contention on the final circuit, took over the race on the final turn, jumped the last fence with a large lead, and was in hand to the wire.
Jockey Ross Geraghty kept Surprising Soul moving forward and preserved the place by a half-length. Belisarius ran the distance in 5:03.20 on yielding turf.
Detroit Blues strikes in second Foxbrook division
Geraghty was on the winning end in the second division, pressing Rosbrian Farm’s Detroit Blues past Riverdee’s pace-setter Gibralfaro to win by a half-length. Irv Naylor’s Amschel finished third, and DASH Stable’s Ice It finished fourth in a field of nine.
Trained by Ricky Hendriks, who scored two wins on the Far Hills card, Detroit Blues was in touch with the early pace as Gibralfaro set down a solid pace under Sean McDermott. Detroit Blues advanced into a striking position on the final run down the backstretch and began his assault on the leader entering the turn.
Gibralfaro gave way grudgingly, but Detroit Blues moved ahead steadily and secured the victory in 5:08.40.
Irish-bred Detroit Blues was coming off a respectable third in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Novice Stakes, his first start in more than two years. He had won a Saratoga allowance hurdle in his American jumps debut.
Caldbeck rolls to Gladstone victory
Rosbrian’s Caldbeck, a maiden in Irish racing, always was in a striking position in the Far Hills Races’ $50,000 Gladstone Stakes for three-year-olds, took command on the final run down the backstretch, and burst away to a dominant 11 1/2-length victory.
Lee Pokoik’s homebred Roller Rolls On finished second, overtaking Edition Farm’s Sim Card in the final strides to get the place by a nose. Bruton Street-US’s Leopold finished fourth in a field of nine.
Hendriks took over the training of Caldeck a month ago after he was purchased by Mandy and George Mahoney’s Rosbrian operation. He previously was trained by Gordon Elliott, who also was the previous trainer of Zanjabeel, now owned by Rosbrian and Meadow Run Farm and a two-time Grade 1 winner this year.
Hendriks said he was impressed with Caldbeck’s last race in Ireland, a fourth in a juvenile allowance hurdle on Sept. 21. “He ran a good race on a heavy track,” Hendriks said. George Mahoney said he and wife Mandy decided to purchase Calbeck for Rosbrian on the recommendation of the two trainers.
Ridden by 19-year-old Irish sensation Jack Kennedy, Caldbeck broke sharply on Far Hills’ yielding turf and tracked the early pace of Leopold. Hendriks knew the race was going well as he watched Caldbeck over the first few fences. “I said to [assistant trainer Eve Ledyard], ‘He’s loving the ground,’ ” he said.
When Kennedy gave Caldbeck the go signal on the final run down the backstretch, the Dark Angel gelding jumped to the lead and began to edge away. Sim Card, ridden by Bernie Dalton, made a move on the final turn, but Calbeck easily drew away under Kennedy’s hand ride.
Roller Rolls On, winner of the year’s only previous U.S. race for three-year-old hurdlers, closed late to snatch second money, a nose ahead of Sim Card. Caldbeck paid $6.60 to win in Far Hills’ first-ever pari-mutuel race after running the 2 1/8-mile distance in 4:14.60.
Two’s Company scores in New Jersey Hunt Cup
Jack Fisher and Hendriks began the day deadlocked atop the trainer standings, and they ended the day in the same position as they accounted for four wins in the seven races.
Fisher won the second race, a maiden hurdle, with Bruton Street-US’s Special Relation, and he closed out the day with Two’s Company, also owned by Bruton Street-US, taking the New Jersey Hunt Cup.
Stewart Strawbridge’s Kings Apollo finished second, and Grand Manan was third.
Sean McDermott, who rode 2015 timber champion Two’s Company, had two winners on the Far Hills card. He also won the Appleton ratings handicap aboard Straylight Racing’s Invocation for trainer Billy Santoro.