Mary Ann Houghland’s Pierrot Lunaire charged through the stretch and overtook pacesetter Divine Fortune to win the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) by three-quarters of a length at the 92nd Far Hills Races on Saturday, Oct. 20. Royal Bonsai, a newcomer to American racing, finished third in the year’s richest steeplechase race.
In the day”s other race meet, the 29th annual International Gold Cup meet in The Plains, Va., Michael T. Wharton’s Grinding Speed scored a 2 1/2-length victory in the $50,000 International Gold Cup.
Grand National (Gr. 1)
Pierrot Lunaire jumped squarely into the hunt for the year’s earnings championship and the Eclipse Award with his second straight Grade 1 victory. He had won his previous start, the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Stakes at Belmont Park by a nose on Sept. 27. Bernie Dalton rode the eight-year-old gelding in both the Grand National and the Lonesome Glory.
In the Belmont victory, Pierrot Lunaire went off at 48.75-1, the longest price on the board. “The Belmont race was a surprise, but this one wasn’t,” said Bruce Miller, the veteran horseman who saddled Pierrot Lunaire for his daughter, trainer Blythe Miller Davies. The elder Miller also saddled Pierrot Lunaire for the Lonesome Glory, a race named for the Racing Hall of Fame member whom he trained and his daughter rode.
On a glorious autumn afternoon in central New Jersey, Darren Nagle sent Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune to the lead immediately, and the multiple graded-stakes winner jumped masterfully as he loped over the soft turf that had absorbed two inches of rain a day earlier.
Dalton kept Pierrot Lunaire toward the back of the field with Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, the winner of Saratoga Race Course’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) on Aug. 23. Both moved toward a free-wheeling Divine Fortune on the final turn, but Nagle appeared to have the front-runner in a strong position for the race to the finish line.
Dalton made a deft move to break free of traffic approaching the last fence, jumped into contention, and took up the chase. Divine Fortune continued to run on well, but Pierrot Lunaire’s momentum carried him to a thrilling victory. “That was a tremendous ride,” Miller said.
Riverdee Stable’s Royal Bonsai, who had been cross-entered in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices, ran an impressive race to take third, 8 3/4 lengths farther back. Demonstrative and jockey Matt McCarron were trapped behind tiring horses approaching the final fence and finished fourth.
Pierrot Lunaire earned $150,000 from the Grand National purse and raised his 2012 earnings to $253,000. He ran the Grand National’s 2 5/8 miles over National Fences in 5:40.
International Gold Cup
Trained by Alicia Murphy, Grinding Speed moved into the ranks of timber stakes winners following a good second-place finish behind timber-standings leader Incomplete in the National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup at Virginia Fall on Oct. 6. He was ridden to victory in the International Gold Cup by Mark Beecher, who won the race last year with Incomplete.
Owner-trainer Karen Gray’s Hot Rize set the early pace, but Grinding Speed moved toward the front on the final turn and drew clear in the stretch. Alfred C. Griffin Jr.’s Aero finished second, three-quarters of a length ahead of owner-trainer Jack Fisher’s Monte Bianco. Grinding Speed ran the International Gold Cup’s 3 1/2 miles in 8:01.60 on yielding turf.
Foxbrook Champion Hurdle
Anne Pape’s Fog Island and jockey Matt McCarron fell in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Stakes on Sept. 27, but they were flawless in the $75,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills as they eased to the lead over the final fence and held off a challenge by Gustavian to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Forgotten Man collected his third straight third-place finish in the race for novices, or horses in their first seasons of racing over fences.
Randleston Farm’s Duc de Savoie set the early pace under a ground-saving ride by Danielle Hodsdon, with Forgotten Man and Jeff Murphy stalking their pace in the middle of the course. Duc de Savoie began to tire on the final turn, and Fog Island and Gustavian took aim on Forgotten Man going to the final fence.
Fog Island grabbed the lead, and Hickory Tree Stables’ Gustavian was unable to cut into the margin. Trained by Richard Valentine, Fog Island collected his first victory of the year while running the Foxbrook’s 2 1/2 miles in 5:19 on soft turf. Anne Pape, wife of longtime leading owner William Pape, acquired Fog Island privately over the winter.
Clarke Ohrstrom’s Kisser N Run marked herself as a filly-and-mare championship contender when she ran down pacesetter Cordillera in the Far Hills stretch to win the $75,000 Peapack Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths. Lillehammer finished third, and Quiet Flaine was fourth in a field of six.
Ridden by Paddy Young, Kisser N Run completed the Peapack’s 2 1/8 miles in 4:22.60 on soft turf. The Peapack was the second straight victory in as many starts over hurdles for the four-year-old Pleasant Tap filly, who is trained in Virginia by Richard Valentine.
Irvin S. Naylor’s Cordillera went to the lead at the start and jumped well for the first circuits of the course under Ross Geraghty. Riverdee Stable’s Lillehammer shadowed the pacesetter, who put distance between herself and the rest of the field at each fence.
Young kept Kisser N Run toward the back of the field through the early going and moved into contention on the final turn as Lillehammer began to fade. Kisser N Run challenged at the final fence and drew clear of Cordillera in the final sixteenth-mile.
A two-time winner in maiden claiming races on the flat at Colonial Downs in the spring and summer, Kisser N Run won her debut over fences at the Foxfield Fall meet in Charlottesville, Va., on Sept. 30.
New Jersey Hunt Cup
Straight to It maintained a perfect record over timber fences when he charged to a 3 1/2-length victory in the $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup. Moonsox finished second, 16 1/4 lengths ahead of Rainbows for Luck. Straight to It, owned by Sheila Wiliams and Andre Brewster, ran the New Jersey Hunt Cup’s 3 1/4 miles in 8:12 on soft turf.
Triple Dip set a slow early pace but tired in the late going as Jack Fisher-trained Straight to It closed ground on the final circuit and drew away under Darren Nagle.
The pattern of pacesetters being caught late continued through the afternoon’s final hurdle race, the $25,000 Gladstone Stakes for three-year-olds. Kinross Farm’s More Tea Vicar opened a large lead in the 2 1/8-mile race, but Irvin S. Naylor’s Top Man Michael made a big move late to win by two lengths. Ross Geraghty rode the winner for trainer Brianne Slater.
Making his first U.S. start after two hurdle starts in Ireland, Top Man Michael ran the Gladstone distance in 4:36.40. The Fields Stable’s Kingdom, a half brother to 2011 winner Wanganui, finished third, 1 1/2 lengths farther back.
Harry E. Harris
Ross Geraghty picked up the mount on Gill Johnston’s Dahoud in the $25,000 Harry E. Harris maiden hurdle when Willie Dowling injured his shoulder in the Peapack, and the veteran Irish jockey picked up the victory when the New Zealand-bred rolled past early pacesetter Gawaarib for an eight-length victory. Manacor finished third. Trained by Jack Fisher, Dahoud ran the 2 1/8-mile distance in 4:28.20.