Irv Naylor’s Rawnaq, showing his customary courage in the stretch, turned back a sharp challenge by Scorpiancer to win America’s richest steeplechase race, the $350,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), by three-quarters of a length on Saturday.
Now undefeated in three 2016 starts, Irish-bred Rawnaq all but sewed up this year’s Lonesome Glory Champions Award as the National Steeplechase Association’s leading earner with his gaudy bankroll of $360,000, including $210,000 from the Grand National victory.
The Grand National, the richest steeplechase race in more than a quarter-century, highlighted a Far Hills Races program worth $700,000, a race-meet record. A capacity crowd of 35,000 basked in mid-autumn sunshine in central New Jersey and cheered Rawnaq as he drew clear before the final fence under top Irish jockey Ruby Walsh.
Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer, winner of the Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) in his most recent start, was not finished, though. With a powerful late move, the Irish-bred drew onto Rawnaq’s flanks but could get no farther.
Robert Aplin’s England-based invader Sharp Rise finished third, 17 1/2 lengths farther back. Rawnaq ran the Grand National’s 2 5/8 miles in 4:50 on firm turf.
“He went nice and smooth,” said Rawnaq’s trainer, Cyril Murphy. “He did it with authority. He jumped the last perfectly.”
Murphy said that, if Rawnaq comes out of the race well, he and leading owner Naylor will consider the Marion DuPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on Saturday, Nov. 19. The Colonial Cup, which closes the 2016 racing season, is worth $150,000 this year.
Walsh, a 10-time champion Irish jump jockey, shared a warm conversation with Jack Doyle after the race. Doyle had ridden Rawnaq to victory in the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 14 but was unable to ride in the Grand National after sustaining a fall at Belmont Park in the Lonesome Glory on Sept. 22. He was on crutches after sustaining a broken pelvis and tailbone.