Sideways Syndicate’s Jury Duty, the heavily favored vanguard of an unprecedented Irish invasion, took command on the final turn of the Far Hills Races’ $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) on Saturday and rolled clear to a 3 1/4-length victory in America’s richest hurdle race.
Owner-trainer Emmet Mullins’ Tornado Watch launched a big move on Far Hills’ final turn to finish second and complete an Irish exacta. Two American contenders, Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose and Harold A. “Sonny” Via’s Hinterland, ran third and fourth, respectively in a field of nine.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, who has made American jump racing a profitable adjunct of his successful Irish stable, Jury Duty went off as the 13-to-10 favorite and paid $4.60 to win after running the Grand National’s 2 5/8 miles in 5:14.80.
The jury was out on the verdict for some time as the Far Hills stewards examined a late change of lanes by Jury Duty. Tornado Watch’s jockey, David Mullins, claimed foul, but the original order of finish was left unchanged.
Robbie Power, who shipped in with a squad of overseas jockeys for the Far Hills card, gave Jury Duty a tactical ride on a solid favorite, keeping the seven-year-old Well Chosen gelding outside and quiet while in the second flight behind a pace set first by Elliott-trained Clarcam and then by Bruton Street-US’s outsider Jaleo, who shipped in from England for trainer Ben Pauling.
Jury Duty and Power powered past the fading speed on the final turn as Tornado Watch, All the Way Jose, and Hinterland launched their bids. The American contenders failed to make a lasting impression, but Mullins switched Tornado Watch to the inside and was in striking range.
Bending into the stretch, Jury Duty dropped to the inside, and Mullins took up on Tornado Watch. Both riders continued to ride to the wire, with Jury Duty widening his advantage to the finish line.
Jury Duty arrived in the U.S. with solid credentials, including a third behind Clarcam in the €250,000 thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase in early August. He galloped over the Far Hills course on Thursday and moved well over the surface.
Belisarius rules first Foxbrook division for Daltons: Belisarius may have been bred in Ireland and is trained in Camden, but he’s a Jersey kind of horse. He loved Monmouth Park largely on the front end in August, and he made a powerful late move at Far Hills to win the first division of the $125,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle by 6 1/4 lengths.
Belisarius opened up approaching the final fence of the 2 1/2-mile Foxbrook, and after a glance backward jockey, Camden’s Bernie Dalton, began congratulating the Montjeu gelding 50 yards before the finish line.
Belisarius is owned by Gary Barber, Brous Stable, and Wachtel Stable, all well-known names in flat racing. Barber mentioned to trainer Kate Dalton, Bernie’s wife, that Belisarius probably would be his next steeplechase horse, following in the footsteps of 2016 novice champion African Oil.
Although Belisarius was running well in Northern California last fall for a claiming price, Barber and his partners shipped him to the Daltons in Camden, S.C., in January.
He progressed steadily, through two third-place finishes, a close second at the Iroquois Steeplechase in May, and then his maiden victory at Monmouth on Aug. 9, his most recent race.
Dalton figured that Belisarius would need to make a late run to take the Foxbrook, and he was assisted by an early burst of speed by Bobabout at the start. “I knew they were going a good gallop,” Dalton said.
On the first full circuit of the well-manicured Far Hills course, Grade 3 stakes winner Surprising Soul took the lead and showed every sign of holding on. Dalton edged Belisarius into contention on the final circuit, took over the race on the final turn, jumped the last fence with a large lead, and was in hand to the wire.