FAR HILLS, N.J. -- Irv Naylor’s Dawalan fought past resilient British invader Eshtiaal in Far Hills’ stretch to win Saturday’s $300,000 Grand National by a length.
Naylor, the National Steeplechase Association’s leading owner, just missed a one-two finish when his Rawnaq closed ground to finish third, a nose behind Will Salthouse’s and Mark McKay’s Eshtiaal.
Imported after this spring’s Grand National meet in England, Dawalan thrust himself into the wide-open battle for the NSA’s Lonesome Glory Champions Award and the year’s Eclipse Award with a highly professional victory over a high-class field. Still in the picture is Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, who misjudged a fence and finished last of nine in the Grand National.
Cyril Murphy, Dawalan’s trainer, recorded his first Grade 1 victory as a trainer after riding a Grade 1 winner as a jockey. Dawalan ran the Grand National’s 4 5/8 miles in 4:57 1/5, the fast time since champion Good Night Shirt’s 4:54 1/5 in 2008.
Murphy believed that Naylor’s Peapack Stakes winner One Lucky Lady was the horse to beat in the day’s first race. He felt he had the best horse in the Grand National if Demonstrative did not run his best race.
“I thought we had to beat Demonstrative,” he said. “If we could beat him, it was going to take a very good effort to beat (Dawalan).” The French-bred five-year-old came into the Grand National from a third-place finish in his American debut, the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 24.
Ross Geraghty placed Dawalan in midpack as his stablemate Decoy Daddy set the early pace with Eshtiaal close behind him for more than two miles. On the final run down the backstretch, Demonstrative misjudged a fence, landed flat-footed, and lost all chance of victory, trainer Richard Valentine said.
As Decoy Daddy tired, Eshtiaal took over, but Dawalan closed stoutly, took the lead, and kept the dead-game English invader at bay. Rawnaq, making his first U.S. start since being unplaced in Ireland’s richest hurdle race, the Guinness Galway Hurdle, closed well to just miss second money.
Dawalan’s U.S. purses now total $195,000, placing him behind New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and Lonesome Glory winner Bob Le Beau, who prefers ground firmer than Far Hills and passed on the year’s richest race.
Remaining on the schedule of Grade 1 races is the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup at Camden on Nov. 21.
Murphy said he would take Dawalan back to Naylor’s Maryland farm. After checking out how the Grand National winner emerges from the race, the owner will decide whether to go on to the Colonial Cup and pursue the championship.
In 2011, Naylor’s Black Jack Blues won the Grand National on his way to the Lonesome Glory award as the year’s leading earner and the Eclipse Award.
Naylor and Murphy enjoy big day in New Jersey: Naylor and Murphy closed out a stakes hat trick when Ebanour charged home to victory in the $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup at the Far Hills Races on Saturday. They combined earlier on the card to win the $300,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) with Dawalan and the $50,000 Peapack Stakes with One Lucky Lady.
Under a well-timed ride by Gus Dahl, Ebanour closed past Schoolhouse Woods in the 3 1/4-mile timber race. Naylor’s Tax Ruling, who set the pace for nearly three miles, came back to claim second money, with Kinross Farm’s Schoolhouse Woods claiming third money. Ebanour ran the distance in 7:10.40.
Jack Fisher, well on his way to his four straight training title, won three races as well. Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer won the $100,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, Bruton Street’s The Nephew took the Appleton Ratings Handicap, and DASH Stable’s Ice It won the Gladstone for three-year-olds.
Prior to Saturday’s Far Hills Races, Naylor, a three-time champion owner, was engaged in a seesaw battle with Gil Johnston for the year’s title. Far Hills, and specifically its $300,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), changed everything.
Naylor bolted to the top of the standings with three victories, including Dawalan’s highly professional victory in the Grand National. The York, Pa., sportsman and philanthropist more than doubled his 2015 earnings to $608,450 and now is in pursuit of his own record of $719,725 in 2011, when he won the Grand National with Black Jack Blues.
In addition to Dawalan’s half-length score, Naylor and trainer Cyril Murphy had a third with Rawnaq in the Grand National, a victory in the $50,000 Peapack with One Lucky Lady, and a hard-charging win by Ebanour in the $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup.
Naylor’s Decoy Daddy and Charminster finished fifth and sixth, respectively in the Grand National to give Naylor $231,000 from the $300,000 Grand National purse, the largest ever at a National Steeplechase Association race meet. Naylor’s Tax Ruling, trained by Billy Meister, finished second in the New Jersey Hunt Cup.
Naylor now occupies second place on the all-time list of NSA owners, behind only George Strawbridge Jr.’s Augustin Stables.
Trainer Murphy’s day was no less memorable, including his first Grade 1 as a trainer (he had one Grade 1 score as a jockey), and his first three-win day as a trainer. His three wins allowed him to leap-frog into second place by purses.
Jack Fisher, who also had three wins at Far Hills, has all but locked up the year’s trainer championships by wins and purses. He has 23 wins; his closest competitors are Jonathan Sheppard and Jimmy Day with eight each.
Fisher’s biggest score was the $100,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle with Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer. Bruton Street-US’s The Nephew also won the $35,000 Appleton Ratings Handicap, and DASH Stable’s Ice It took the $25,000 Gladstone for three-year-olds.
Fisher’s bankroll increased by more than $113,000, and he now has 2015 earnings of $871,100. He holds the record for most trainer earnings in a year with more than $1.1-million in 2008.
The day’s second chase, the $40,000 Harry e. Harris Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle, was won by Riverdee Stable’s, the Grange. The five-year-old Broken Vow mare, who was making her second start over jumps, is trained by Camden’s Kate Dalton and was ridden by her husband Bernie.
Ross Geraghty and Connor Hankin each had two wins on a brisk, breezy day in central New Jersey. Geraghty beat brother Barry Geraghty to the finish line aboard Dawalan in the Grand National, and he also rode One Lucky Lady. Hankin, a college senior, won with Scorpiancer and The Nephew.