Irv Naylor’s Rawnaq, undefeated this year and unchallenged at the top of the 2016 National Steeplechase Association ratings, heads 10 nominees to the $350,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at the Far Hills Races on Saturday, Oct. 15.
The 2 5/8-mile Grand National is America’s richest steeplechase race and headlines a program offering $700,000 in purses, a race-meet record in American Steeplechasing. First post time will be 1 p.m. at historic Moorland Farm in Far Hills, N.J.
Rawnaq, an Irish-bred trained by Cyril Murphy, comes into the Grand National from a courageous victory against strong overseas challengers in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 14. He also won the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races in mid-April.
Those two victories gave Rawnaq an NSA rating of 162, far above his next leading competitor.
Third in last year’s Grand National, Rawnaq again is likely to have challenges from overseas. Trainer Charlie Longsdon nominated Sharp Rise, a five-time winner this year, and prominent trainer Nicky Henderson nominated Days of Heaven, who was recently acquired by prominent American owner Gil Johnston.
Both Sharp Rise and Days of Heaven have won over hurdles and the taller steeplechase fences in England this year.
Naylor, the runaway leader in the 2016 owner standings, also nominated Charminster, who won the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) in early May and most recently finished third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 22. Murphy also trains the Irish-bred veteran.
Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer, the Lonesome Glory winner by a decisive 2 1/4 lengths, was nominated to the Grand National by leading trainer Jack Fisher. At 143, Irish-bred Scorpiancer is second in the NSA Ratings. He won last year’s Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices on the Far Hills course.
Elizabeth Voss nominated The Fields Stable’s Portrade and Robert A. Kinsley’s Tempt Me Alex. Portrade scored the biggest victory of his career when he led throughout the Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and won by a length on Aug. 25. Tempt Me Alex won the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes in his only 2016 start.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard nominated two stakes winners coming back from long periods on the sidelines. Bill Pape’s Martini Brother most recently finished second in the 2015 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at Saratoga, and Parker’s Pride won the 2015 Semmes Memorial for owner Hudson River Farms.
Completing the nominees is Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu, winner of last fall’s Noel Laing Handicap at the Montpelier Hunt Races. The French-bred is trained by Leslie Young.
Here are the nominees to the $350,000 Grand National. The horse’s rating is in parentheses at the end of each profile.
Andi’amu (Fr). 2010 b. g., Walk In The Park—Sainte Parfaite, by Septieme Ciel. Owner: Ballybristol Farm. Trainer: Leslie Young. Breeder: Therese Bouche (Fr). 2016 record: 5-1-2-0, $59,800. 2015 NSA record: 4-1-3-0, $56,400. Finished hard-driving second in 2016 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Won Monmouth Park Ratings Handicap, then was fourth in Saratoga Ratings Handicap. Finished fifth in Middleburg Spring’s 2016 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3), then was second in Iroquois Ratings Handicap. Won Montpelier’s Noel Laing, a Ratings Handicap. Finished second in first three U.S. starts. (129)
Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeder: Raymond Cahalane (Ire). 2016 record: 6-1-1-1, $75,000. 2015 record: 5-1-0-1, $63,500. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $11,700. Charged to 3 3/4-length win in 2016 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup, then was second in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Faded to fifth in New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished third in 2016 Lonesome Glory (Gr. 1). (135)
Days of Heaven (Fr). 2010 dk. b. g., Saint des Saintes—Daramour, by Anabaa Blue (GB). Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Nicky Henderson. Breeder: 2mme 1Guilhaine le Borgne. 2016 NSA record: No starts. Recent acquisition by prominent American owner won his only start over bigger steeplechase fences at Kempton in May. Reeled off three straight wins over hurdles in 2014-15 season but was unable to duplicate that form in 2015-16.
Martini Brother. 2008 dk. b. or br. g., A.P. Indy—Island Sand, by Tabasco Cat. Owner: Bill Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeder: Meadowview Farms (Ky). 2015 record: 2-0-1-0, $23,250. Making a comeback after more than a year on the sidelines. Finished second in the 2015 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Won his first three races in 2013, including a victory in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, and was one of the year’s top novices. Grade 1-winning dam sold for $4.2-million at 2007 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale while carrying Martini Brother. (134)
Parker’s Project. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Parker’s Storm Cat—Let’s Canoodle, by Oh Say. Owner: Hudson River Farms. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2015 record: 2-1-0-1, $50,000. Making first start since third in 2015 National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Began 2015 campaign with neck victory in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). In first start in more than two years, closed well to finish second in Belmont Park’s 2014 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), then finished third in Grand National (Gr. 1) (138).
Portrade (Ire). 2009 b. g., Trade Fair (GB)—Portorosa, by Irish River (Fr). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeder: Keene Bloodstock (Ire). 2016 record: 3-1-0-1, $104,300. 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,500. 2014 NSA record: No starts. Won the 2016 New York Turf Writers (Gr. 1) after setting all the pace. Finished third in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Opened 2016 with fifth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap. In final 2014 starts in Ireland, won Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle at Listowel and then was second in a handicap hurdle at Tipperary. (129)
Rawnaq (Ire). 2007 b. g., Azamour (Ire)—Sharemata, by Dayoun (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeder: Jim Monaghan (Ire). 2016 record: 2-2-0-0, $150,000. 2015 NSA record: 2-0-1-1, $48,000. Won hard-fought victory in 2016 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) after impressive win in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3). In his first U.S. start, closed gamely to finish third in Far Hills’ Grand National (Gr. 1), beaten a length, then finished second in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). (162)
Scorpiancer (Ire). 2009 b. g., Scorpion (Ire)—Janebailey, By Silver Patriarch. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Mary O’Connor (Ire). 2016 record: 6-1-3-1, $154,600. 2015 NSA record: 2-2-0-0, $75,000. Won Belmont Park’s 2016 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished good second in Saratoga’s 2016 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was third in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Finished second in Middleburg Spring’s 2016 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3), then fourth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished second in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap. Won 2015 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. (143)
Sharp Rise (Ire). 2007 b. g., Croco Rouge—Missusan, by King’s Ride. Owner: Robert Aplin. Trainer: Charlie Longsdon. Breeder: Mrs. M. Brophy (Ire). 2016 NSA record: No starts. Made all the running in Stratford-on-Avon’s Hibbert Family Handicap Hurdle on Sept. 3 and won by 10 lengths for his fifth victory in eight starts this year. Also won over bigger steeplechase fences with jockey Richard Johnson.
Tempt Me Alex. 2009 b. g.., Afleet Alex—Attemptress, by Meadowlake. Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeder: Robert A. Kinsley (Pa.) 2016 record: 1-1-0-0, $45,000. 2015 record: 1-0-1-0, $6,300. Won 2016 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Iroquois Steeplechase. In his only 2015 start, finished close second in Iroquois Steeplechase Ratings Handicap. Won the 2014 Bright Hour at Iroquois. (125)