The 114th edition of the $30,000 Grand National on Saturday attracted a strong field that includes the two most recent winners of the Maryland timber classic as well as the winner and first finisher in last year’s Maryland Hunt Cup.
The 3 1/4-mile Grand National, middle jewel of Maryland’s timber triple crown, will kick off a three-race program at 3:15 p.m. at the Butler course. The two supporting races also attracted large fields.
Welcome Here Farm’s Serene Harbor made only one start last year and conquered the fences of the Grand National to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Annie Yeager returns to ride the 13-year-old Valley Crossing gelding for trainer Todd McKenna.
Spencer Road won the 2014 Grand National and will be seeking a second trip to the Grand National winner’s circle for owners Gerry Brewster, Eleanor T. Russell, and Joseph Tydings.
McLane Hendriks has the mount for trainer Joseph Davies, who also entered Brewster’s Derwins Prospector, sixth in the 2014 Grand National.
Serene Harbor and Spencer Road will face stiff challenges in their bids for a repeat victory. Merriefield Farm’s Imperial Way finished first in last year’s Hunt Cup but lost 24 pounds of saddle weights late in the race and was disqualified. Trainer Elizabeth Voss named Diana Gillam to ride.
Raven’s Choice, who finished third in last year’s Grand National for owner Ann Jackson, was elevated to the top spot in the Hunt Cup after finishing second by a half-length. Trained by Todd Wyatt, Raven’s Choice will be ridden by Mark Beecher.
Leading trainer Jack Fisher will saddle Arcadia Stable’s Delta Park, winner of the 2014 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup and unplaced in his one 2015 start.
Here is the field for the $30,000 Grand National.
Raven’s Choice. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dance With Ravens—Millashand, by Regal Intention. Owner: Mrs. Cary W. Jackson. Trainer: Todd Wyatt. Jockey: Mark Beecher. 2015 record: 2-1-0-1, $48,000. 2014 record: 3-2-1-0, $29,700. 3-1 odds. Placed first in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after finishing close second. Began season with third in Grand National. Won 2014 Willowdale Steeplechase.
And the Eagle Flys. 2002 ch. g., Double Honor–Slick Mountain, by Peaks and Valleys. Owner: Mrs. William D. Class Jr. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: Kevin Boniface. Breeders: Philip and Karen Matthews (Fla.). 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 10-1 odds. Pulled up in the 2014 Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup. Pulled up in the 2013 Grand National, his only start of the year. Won the 2012 Grand National but fell at the 17th fence of the Maryland Hunt Cup. Finished second in the 2011 Maryland Hunt Cup.
Delta Park. 2004 b. g., Johannesburg–Excedius, by Seattle Dancer. Owner: Arcadia Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Forrest Kelly. Breeders: Earl Silver and Michael Eiserman (Ky.). 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,000. 2014 record: 4-1-0-1, $24,800. 6-1 odds. Finished fifth in his only 2015 start, the Willowdale Steeplechase. Won the 2014 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup after fifth in Shawan’s Legacy Chase. Won 2012 Radnor Hunt Cup and 2011 New Jersey Hunt Cup.
Spencer Road. 2006 b. h., Slew City Slew—Snars Good Fortune, by Snars. Owners: Gerry Brewster, Eleanor T. Russell, and Joseph Tydings. Trainer: Joseph Davies. McLane Hendriks. 2015 record: 2-0-0-1, $8,500. 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $18,000. 8-1 odds. Finished fourth and placed third in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after fourth in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber amateur allowance race. Won 2014 Grand National before eighth in Virginia Gold Cup.
Imperial Way. 2005 ch. g., Point Given–Lasha, by Rahy. Owner: Merriefield Farm. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Diana Gillam. Breeders: McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, Craig and Cathy Beam, et al. 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $14,300. 4-1 odds. Disqualified from win in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after losing saddle weights late in race. Just missed by a nose in thrilling 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup finish.
Serene Harbor. 2003 b. g., Valley Crossing—We Wak Harbor, by Waquoit. Owner: Welcome Here Farm. Trainer: Todd McKenna. Jockey: Annie Yeager. Breeder: Nina Gardner (Pa.). 2015 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2014 record: 3-2-0-0, $21,000. 2-1 odds. Won Grand National in only 2015 start. Closed 2014 season with a runaway victory in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Returned to the races after a nearly two-year break and won a Winterthur timber allowance race that year.
Joshua G. 2006 ch. g., Run Softly—Search for Reality, by Regal Search. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Sarah Shaffer. Breeder: Jason L. Cole (Pa.) 2015 record: 4-0-0-0, $5,750. 2014 record: 3-1-0-0, $10,400. 20-1 odds. Finished fourth in 2015 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber allowance race after fall in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Finished fifth and placed fourth in Maryland Hunt Cup. Homebred won 2014 Martha S. Wadsworth Memorial maiden timber race at the Genesee Valley Hunt Races in New York, then was fifth in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Derwins Prospector. 2008 ch. g., Van Nistelrooy—Stringtown Sally, by Crafty Prospector. Owner: Gerry L. Brewster. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Jockey: Open. Breeders: Patricia Lagden and Devi Hall (Ky.). 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 3-0-0-0, $2,200. 20-1 odds. Finished fifth in 2014 timber allowance race at Willowdale after sixth at Grand National.