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Pierrot Lunaire ready to return in Grand National

Posted: October 11, 2013 12:27 p.m.
Updated: October 14, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The National Steeplechase Association’s leading-earners table has a traffic jam at the top, and the sport’s top competitors have been nominated to the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), the headline contest of the 93rd annual Far Hills Races on Saturday, Oct. 19.
First post time is 1 p.m. for the year’s richest race program on the National Steeplechase Association circuit, with $500,000 on the line at Moorland Farms in central New Jersey.
Other stakes races on the program are the $100,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices, the $75,000 Peapack for fillies and mares, and the $25,000 Gladstone for three-year-olds.
Again, the Grand National very well may play a decisive role in determining this year’s steeplechase champion by earnings and the Eclipse Award winner. In addition to the sport’s top earners in 2013, last year’s Grand National winner, Mary Ann Houghland’s Pierrot Lunaire, has been nominated to the 2 5/8-mile race over National Fences. The Eclipse winner has not started a race over fences since last year’s Grand National.
The Grand National carries a $150,000 prize for the winner, and that payday could tip in the balance in a highly competitive year in American Steeplechasing’s championship division. The year’s four Grade 1 races to date have had four different winners.
When nominations were announced last Tuesday, Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard had sent in the names of five of his jumpers.
Leading the pack with $123,000 is owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Italian Wedding, who came back from a long layoff to finish second in Saratoga Race Course’s $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 1 before winning Saratoga’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) three weeks later. He most recently finished third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 19.
Second on the earnings board at $120,000 is Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, who won the Smithwick by 2 1/2 lengths before a fourth in the New York Turf Writers. Third in the 2009 Santa Anita Derby (Gr. 1) on the flat, Mr. Hot Stuff won the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase on May 11.
Reigning champion trainer Jack Fisher trains Mr. Hot Stuff and the year’s most pleasing surprise, Sheila Williams’ and Andre Brewster’s All Together. The 2010 novice champion won his first race in nearly two years when he scored in a Saratoga optional allowance claimer for a $30,000 claiming tag on Aug. 1. He then reeled off second-place finishes in the New York Turf Writers and Lonesome Glory. His return to top-quality competition has earned him $93,000 this year.
In his first start since being acquired by Magalen O. Bryant, Gustavian scored a thrilling nose victory in the Lonesome Glory over All Together. That $100,000 payday lifted the seven-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding into the third spot by earnings with $104,000. Leslie Young trains Gustavian, who is ridden regularly by the trainer’s husband, three-time champion jockey Paddy Young.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative won the year’s first Grade 1 race, the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), but has not been able to duplicate that effort. Scratched from the Smithwick because of a cough, he ran a lackluster sixth in the Turf Writers before finishing fourth in the Lonesome Glory.
Bill Pape’s Martini Brother also will be attempting to regain his top form. He swept to the top of the novice division with three straight wins, including a tally in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes before a good third in the New York Turf Writers. But he ran a disappointing sixth in the $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes on Belmont’s Lonesome Glory program.
Sheppard trains Martini Brother and Divine Fortune, whom he owns in partnership with Pape. Divine Fortune finished second in last year’s Grand National but has been unable to duplicate that form in top-class company this year. He most recently finished seventh in both the New York Turf Writers and the Lonesome Glory.
Sheppard also nominated his Barnstorming, winner of Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. He is also trains Atlantic Equine’s Hunt Ball, sixth in the Lonesome Glory.
Trainer Jimmy Day nominated Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, who finished fifth in both the New York Turf Writers and the Lonesome Glory.
Tom Voss nominated The Fields Stable’s Left Unsaid, winner of the 2010 Foxbrook. He has not started since the 2012 Lonesome Glory.

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