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I's U.S. vs. the world in Grand National

Posted: October 19, 2017 1:05 p.m.
Updated: October 20, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I/

ARCH KINGSLEY WILL saddle Carolina Cup winner Show Court in Saturday’s $400,000 Grand National.

America’s best steeplechase horses in training will be challenged by an invasion of overseas runners in Saturday’s $400,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), America’s richest steeplechase race and the centerpiece of the Far Hills Races.

In all, the 97th annual Far Hills Races will feature five stakes among its seven contests. Purses will total $800,000, a record for a National Steeplechase Association race meet. The racing can be viewed by live streaming video on the Far Hills website, farhillsrace.org. First post time is 1 p.m.

The Grand National will go a long way toward determining the year’s champion steeplechase horse, and nine worthy competitors will line up to face the starter for the 2 5/8-mile race over National Fences. Of those nine, three are based overseas.

The American-based contingent is highly competitive, and coming off a major, breakout victory is Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, who burst away from his opponents to win Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) by 1 1/4 lengths on Sept. 21.

Bred and trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, All the Way Jose is no stranger to Far Hills’ Moorland Farm course. Three years ago, he locked up the championship for novices. Darren Nagle, who currently leads the NSA jockey standings, again will be in the saddle on All the Way Jose.

Robert A. Kinsley’s Modem, who began racing in the United States this summer, will be trying to attain the winner’s circle after three straight second-place finishes in Grade 1 races. In addition to his place finish in the Lonesome Glory, the British-bred gelding was second in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial and the New York Turf Writers Cup, both at Saratoga Race Course. Trainer Elizabeth Voss named Jack Doyle to ride.

Jack Fisher leads the NSA’s trainer standings by 10 races and more than a half-million dollars and is all but assured of his sixth straight title by wins and his fourth straight by purses. He is responsible for the youngest and the oldest members of the Grand National field.

The youngest at age six is Bruton Street-US’s Moscato, who has zoomed to the top of the earnings table in his first year of racing over fences. On the same Belmont program as the Lonesome Glory, the British-bred gelding roared away to a 3 1/2-length victory in the William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. Sean McDermott has the mount.

Top Irish jockey Danny Mullins will be aboard Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, an 11-year-old who finished fifth in the Lonesome Glory. A consistent competitor, Mr. Hot Stuff competed in the 2009 Triple Crown races on the flat.

Moscato has never finished worse than second in six starts over fences, his first run and in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Finishing ahead of him in the Kiser was Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, who subsequently finished sixth in the New York Turf Writers. Trained by Camden’s Arch Kingsley Jr., the 2017 Carolina Cup winner will be ridden by Michael Mitchell.

Irv Naylor, owner of the last two Grand National winners, Dawalan in 2015 and Rawnaq last year, will go for the hat trick with Jamarjo. In his most recent start, Irish-bred Jamarjo won Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 20 for trainer Leslie Young.

Jamarjo will be ridden by Paul Townend, a talented young jump jockey who was the Irish champion rider in the 2010-2011 racing season.

A member of the overseas contingent is Mighty Acorn Stables’ Casino Markets, who is trained in England’s horse country by Emma Lavelle. Casino Markets has tested the American market twice, finishing eighth in the New York Turf Writers and a much-improved fourth in the Lonesome Glory, beaten 2 1/2 lengths. Ross Geraghty will ride.

Owner Robert Aplin and trainer Charlie Longsdon visited Far Hills last year and took home third-place money in the Grand National with Sharp Rise. They are returning with contender Hammersly Lake, who has won three times this year, most recently in the Sodexo Prestige Venues Steeplechase at Perth Hunt on Sept. 11. Brian Hughes, who rode Sharp Rise last year, has the mount.

Joseph O’Brien, a rising star on the international racing scene, entered Katnap, a 10-year-old who finished second in Aintree’s Randox Health Topham Steeplechase in April. The trainer, son of renowned Coolmore trainer Aidan O’Brien, was a top flat jockey before beginning a training career that has had early successes. David Russell rides Katnap.

 

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