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, the featured race of Saturday’s 94th annual Far Hills Races.
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 will be contested.
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 on the New Jersey course 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 Camden’s 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 in May. Kieran Norris has the mount.