In a race that will go a long way toward determining the year-end championship, Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative will meet reigning Eclipse Award winner Divine Fortune in the historic $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), the featured race of the 94th annual Far Hills Races on Saturday.
The 2 5/8-mile Grand National, which has decided the last three Eclipse winners, caps an exciting afternoon of racing at Moorland Farms. In all, purses for the seven races total a season-leading $580,000, and proceeds benefit the Somerset Health Care Foundation. First post time is 1 p.m.
Demonstrative, who finished third in last year’s Grand National on firm but moist ground he did not favor, is riding a two-race Grade 1 winning streak. He scored a second victory in Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup in August and came back to take Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap last month. In July, he was narrowly second in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial, also a Grade 1 race.
Robbie Walsh will again ride Demonstrative for trainer Richard Valentine, who also will saddle Peapack Stakes favorite Kisser N Run, owned by Clarke Ohrstrom.
Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, who grabbed the 2013 Eclipse with his brilliant victory in the Grand National, will be attempting to duplicate the excellent form he always shows on the Far Hills course. Last year’s Grand National was his finest career effort, and he finished a good second in 2012.
In May, Divine Fortune collected his second Grade 1 victory when he won the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Memorial in Nashville, but he has been unable to regain that top form over the summer. He fell at the last fence in the Lonesome Glory while mounting a challenge to Demonstrative.
Divine Fortune is one of four Grand National contenders trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard.
Owned by Hudson River Farms, Parker’s Project made a strong late run to finish second in the Lonesome Glory, his first start in more than two years. Sheppard also entered his Barnstorming, who finished fifth in the Lonesome Glory, and Pape’s Bluegrass Summer, the Lonesome Glory’s sixth finisher. A year ago, Bluegrass Summer sealed a novice championship with a victory in a division of Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle.
Darren Nagle rides Divine Fortune, Ross Geraghty will be aboard Parker’s Project, leading jockey Willie McCarthy has the call on Barnstorming, and Bernie Dalton returns on Bluegrass Summer.
Reigning champion jockey Paddy Young will ride Clorevia Farm’s Dr. Skip, who came off the sidelines to finish third in Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes on Sept. 18. It was Dr. Skip’s first start since losing his jockey in a division of Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle last year.
The Merck family’s The Fields Stable will be represented by Bob Le Beau, an Irish-bred import who finished second in Virginia Fall’s W. Gary Baker Memorial on Oct. 4. Gus Dahl will ride for trainer Elizabeth Voss Murray.
Trainer Cyril Murphy will saddle Mertiage Racing’s Inti, second in the Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) in May. Kieran Norris has the mount.
Who do you like in the $250,000 Grand National?
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. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. 2014 record: 1-0-1-0, $27,000. 2013 record: No starts. 8-1 odds. In first start in more than two years, closed well to finish second in Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Won Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Stakes (Gr. 2), his only start in 2012.
Dr. Skip. 2008 ch. g., Eddington—Mz. Ann, by Citidancer. Owner: Clorevia Farm. Trainer: Edward Graham. Jockey: Paddy Young. 2014 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,500. 2013 record: 5-2-0-0, $36,000. 10-1 odds. In first start since losing rider in division of Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle last year, finished third in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes on Sept. 18.
Barnstorming. 2006 b. g., Thunder Gulch—Soul of the Cat, by Stravinsky. Owner-trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. 2014 record: 4-0-1-0, $33,000. 2013 record: 7-1-2-0, $93,500. 10-1 odds. Finished fifth in Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 18 after pressing early pace. Closed for second in Saratoga’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) on Aug. 25. Showed nothing and finished ninth in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on July 31. Won Saratoga’s 2013 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes.
Inti (Uru). 2005 gr. or ro. g., Dubai Dust-Rigolina (Uru), by Ritz (Arg). Owner: Meritage Racing. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Kieran Norris. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $11,500. 2013 record: 3-1-0-0, $33,500. 10-1 odds. Finished second in Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 17. Began 2014 season with fourth in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) on April 19. Pulled 23.90-1 upset in Colonial Downs’ David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) in June 2013.
Bluegrass Summer. 2008 gr. or ro. g., Purge—Rose of Summer, by El Prado (Ire). Owner: Bill Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. 2014 record: 3-0-0-1, $15,750. 2013 NSA record: 6-3-0-0, $99,600. 12-1 odds. Showed little and finished sixth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 18. Finished third in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes after fourth in Jonathan Kiser Novice. Assured himself the 2013 novice championship when he held off late challenge to win first division of Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle.
Divine Fortune. 2003 ch. g., Royal Anthem–My Tombola, by Northern Fling. Owner: William Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Darren Nagle. 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $90,000. 2013 record: 7-2-1-1, $207,000. 4-1 odds. Eclipse Award winner in 2013 fell at last fence of Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 18. Pulled up in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) after blazing to 3 1/4-length score in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville on May 10. Secured Eclipse with brilliant victory in last year’s Grand National (Gr. 1).
Demonstrative. 2007 b. g., Elusive Quality–Loving Pride, by Quiet American. Owner: Jacqueline Ohrstrom. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Robbie Walsh. 2014 record: 4-2-1-0, $202,500. 2013 record: 5-1-0-1, $131,000. 2-1 odds. Scored a highly professional victory in Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 18. Won Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) on Aug. 25 after unlucky second in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on July 31. In only other 2014 start, finished sixth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), a race he won in 2013. Also won 2012 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Was 2010 three-year-old champion.
Bob Le Beau (Ire). 2007 dk. b. or. br. g., Big Bad Bob—Shine Silently, by Bering (GB). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss Murray. Jockey: Gus Dahl. 2014 record: 3-0-1-0, $9,450. 15-1 odds. Most recently second, beaten 7 1/4 lengths, in Virginia Fall’s W. Gary Baker Memorial on Oct. 4. Finished sixth in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, his U.S. debut, on July 24 before losing his rider in Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes three weeks later. Formerly based in Ireland with trainer Jessica Harrington.