The $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) will be a decidedly international affair at the Far Hills Races on Saturday after Irish and English trainers filled the entry box for a highly competitive edition of America’s richest steeplechase race.
The 2 5/8-mile Grand National will be the highlight of the 98th annual Far Hills Races, which will offer $900,000 in purses, a record for an American race meet. In partnership with Monmouth Park, Far Hills will conduct pari-mutuel wagering for the first time, and the meet’s high-definition video signal will be available on its website, www.farhillsrace.org.
In addition to the Grand National, the program will feature two divisions of the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices, or horses in their first seasons of racing over fences. Each division will carry a $125,000 purse.
Also on the card are the Gladstone Stakes for three-year-olds, the New Jersey Hunt Cup over timber, a ratings handicap, and a Sport of Kings maiden hurdle, each worth $50,000. All the races drew large fields.
While overseas trainers accounted for five of nine Grand National entries, several starters already have American owners. Prominent Irish trainer Gordon Elliott will take two shots at the Grand National after winning last year’s Foxbrook with Zanjabeel, who already is a two-time Grade 1 winner for his American owners, Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm.
In August, Rosbrian and Meadow Run acquired Clarcam, a veteran who has earned more than $600,000 in 49 career starts. Elliott shipped the Galway Steeplechase Plate winner to the U.S. for unplaced starts in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Irish-based jockey Jack Kennedy has the mount.
Elliott also will saddle Sideways Stable’s Jury Duty, who finished third to Clarcam in the €250,000 Galway Steeplechase Plate on Aug. 1. Robbie Power, also based in Ireland, will ride.
Danny Mullins, another top Irish jockey, won last year’s Grand National on Gillian Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff for trainer Jack Fisher, and he will again carry the owner’s silks aboard Days of Heaven, who will be making his first start for Fisher. Days of Heaven finished fifth in the 2016 Grand National for trainer Nicky Henderson.
Bruton Street-US, last year’s National Steeplechase Association champion owner, will send out steeplechase allowance winner Jaleo, who is trained by rising young British trainer Ben Pauling. Adrian Heskin will ride.
British owner Robert Aplin, who has become a regular at the central New Jersey meet, returns for another shot at the Grand National with Hammersly Lake, who was fifth in last year’s race. Brian Hughes also returns to ride for trainer Charlie Longsdon.
Another invader is owner-trainer Emmet Mullins’ Tornado Watch, who has two hurdle wins and a maiden flat victory this year in Ireland. Mullins is the nephew of leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins. Another nephew will be in the saddle. David Mullins, now 22, was the second-youngest jockey ever to ride a winner of the Grand National at Aintree, England, in 2016.
American interests will not be defenseless against the Anglo-Irish tide, but they will need their best efforts in what promises to be a well-matched field. Irv Naylor’s Dawalan, the 2015 Grand National winner and Eclipse Award champion, is attempting a comeback for trainer Cyril Murphy after missing much of the last three racing seasons. Darren Nagle has the mount.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will saddle Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, who finished third in last year’s Grand National, beaten two noses. Unplaced in three starts this year, All the Way Jose will be ridden for the first time by Michael Mitchell.
Sean McDermott will be aboard Sonny Via’s Hinterland, who is trained by Fisher. He made a nice run to finish second to Zanjabeel in the Lonesome Glory on Sept. 20.
Here is the field for the $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) in post-position order. The horses’ NSA ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Days of Heaven (Fr). 2010 dk. b. g., Saint des Saintes—Daramour, by Anabaa Blue (GB). Owner: Gillian Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Danny Mullins. 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.
Jaleo (Ger). 2012 ch. g., New Approach (Ire)—Jambalaya (Ger), by Samum (Ger). Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Ben Pauling. Jockey: Adrian Heskin. 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.
Tornado Watch (Ire). 2009 ch. g., Selkirk—Pattimech, by Nureyev. Owner-trainer: Emmet Mullins. Jockey: David 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.
Hammersly Lake (Fr). 2008 b. g., Kapgarde—Loin de Moi, by Loupe Solitaire. Owner: Robert Aplin. Trainer: Charles E. Longsdon. Jockey: Brian Hughes. 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.
Clarcam (Fr). 2019 b. g., Califet (Fr)—Rose Beryl, by Lost World. Owner: Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Jockey: Jack Kennedy. 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)
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Buttonwood Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. 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)
Jury Duty (Ire). 2011 b. g., Well Chosenn (GB)—Swan Heart (Ire), by Broken Hearted (Ire). Owner: Sideways Syndicate. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Jockey: Robbie Power. 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).
Hinterland (Fr). 2008 b. g., Poliglote (GB)—Queen’s Place, by Diamond Prospect. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. 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)
Dawalan (Fr). 2010 gr. or ro. g., Azamour (Ire)—Daltawa, by Miswaki. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Darren Nagle. 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).