Bill Pape’s Mixed Up, the reigning Eclipse Award steeplechase horse, will confront a strong field on Saturday, Oct. 23, in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), one of America’s premier races over fences and a highlight of the 90th annual Far Hills Races in New Jersey.
The Far Hills meet also will feature full fields for the $100,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for newcomers to jump racing and the $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup over timber fences. Purses for the six-race program at Moorland Farms total $500,000, and proceeds of the day benefit the Somerset Medical Center. First post is 1 p.m.
Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Mixed Up will face a significant test in the Grand National, a 2 5/8-mile race over National Fences. The 11-year-old Carnivalay gelding has two fifth-place finishes this year in stakes races, the $75,000 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) and the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). But he showed that he is ready for a strong effort with a close second-place finish in a training flat race at Morven Park in Virginia on Oct. 9. Danielle Hodsdon will ride Mixed Up.
Sheppard also entered Pape’s Lead Us Not, winner of a Saratoga Race Course allowance race on Aug. 12. The eight-year-old Royal Anthem gelding will be ridden by Brian Crowley.
Meeting Mixed Up will be the winners of the two races in which he finished fifth this year. Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away won the Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg, Va., on April 17. Trained by Tom Voss, the seven-year-old Skip Away gelding most recently finished a good second in the $100,000 Helen Haskell Sampson (Gr. 1) on September 25, and he is likely to set the Grand National pace under reigning champion jockey Paddy Young.
Voss also entered Dictina’s Boy, who will be pursuing his first victory since winning Far Hills’ Appleton Hurdle last year. Matt McCarron will ride Riverdee Stable’s eight-year-old With Approval gelding.
Irvin Naylor’s Tax Ruling, winner of the Iroquois at Nashville, Tenn., on May 8, comes into the Grand National from a sixth-place finish in the Haskell Sampson at Monmouth Park. Trained by Desmond Fogarty, Tax Ruling finished third in last year’s Grand National, and he will be ridden by Darren Nagle. Decoy Daddy, owned by Naylor and trained by Fogarty, will make his first U.S. start, and Willie Dowling will be in the saddle.
Also taking another shot at a Grand National victory is Gregory D. Hawkins’ Red Letter Day, who finished fourth in last year’s race. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Janet Elliot, the seven-year-old Red Ransom gelding finished fifth in the Haskell Sampson in his only 2010 start.
Hanne Bechmann, who saddled General Ledger for a second-place finish in the 2009 Grand National, is shipping in Irish-bred Percussionist, who was a stakes winner on the flat in England before his conversion to steeplechase racing.
Reigning champion trainer Jack Fisher entered Sheila J. Williams’ Seer, who finished third in the Sampson. Xavier Aizpuru will ride the six-year-old Pulpit gelding.
Trainer Lilith Boucher entered Rodman Moorehead’s Class Bopper, an impressive winner of Colonial Downs’ $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Hurdle (Gr. 3) in July. The trainer’s husband, Richard, will ride.
Completing the Grand National’s field of 12 are Polaris Stables’ Preemptive Strike, winner of the 2004 Appleton, and Mrs. Calvin Houghland’s Chivite, who finished sixth in the Iroquois. All Grand National starters carry 156 pounds.
Highly competitive Foxbrook
Sheppard, Voss, and Fisher, who have steeplechase racing’s top trainers for many years, also will have strong hands to play in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, a 2 1/2-mile race over National Fences.
Maryland-based Voss entered Dumbarton Farm’s homebred Easy Red, who scored a confident victory in Monmouth’s $70,000 Metcalf Memorial Novice Stakes on Sept. 25 after winning a Saratoga allowance race over Grand National entrant Lead Us Not. Young will ride the eight-year-old Charismatic gelding, who was a stakes winner on the flat. Voss also entered Alnoff Stable’s Ground Frost, third in the Metcalf Memorial.
Sheppard, whose 1,000th victory over fences in the Haskell Sampson will be honored before Far Hills’ first race, entered his Italian Wedding and Mrs. Houghland’s Nationbuilder. Italian Wedding, winner of the $20,000 Sandhills Cup at the Stoneybrook Races in North Carolina on April 3, most recently finished fifth in the Metcalf Memorial. Nationbuilder, winner of the $50,000 Queen’s Cup MPC Hurdle Stakes in North Carolina on April 24, finished fourth in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga on July 29 in his previous start.
Fisher also will have a double-barreled entry in the Foxbrook, Arcadia Stable’s All Together and Mrs. S. K. Johnston’s Ambersham. All Together tuned for the Foxbrook with a flat-race victory at Monmouth on Sept. 25, and Ambersham finished seventh in the Metcalf.
Trainer Doug Fout entered James R. Piper’s Call You in Ten, a good second in the Metcalf after encountering traffic problems in midstretch. Oakwood Stable’s Country Cousin enters the Foxbrook from a victory in the National Hunt Cup at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on May 16 for trainer Julie Gomena.
The Foxbrook’s biggest question mark is Irish-bred Fealing Real, who has been racing over fences in England and Ireland.
He’s a Conniver returns
He’s a Conniver, winner of the $50,000 International Gold Cup at The Plains, Va. on Oct. 16, returns on a week’s rest for the New Jersey Hunt Cup at 3 1/4 miles over timber fences. A confirmed front-runner for trainer Ernest Oare’s EMO Stables, He’s a Conniver also won the National Sporting Museum Chronicle Cup at the Virginia Fall Races in Middleburg on Oct. 2.
Among his 11 opponents is Patriot’s Path, the reigning timber champion who is owned by Naylor and trained by Fogarty. He won his first race of the year in the $25,000 Genesee Valley Hunt Cup in Geneseo, N.Y., on Oct. 9.