The talent-laden program at Moorland Farms in Far Hills, N.J., also features the $75,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices in their first years of competition over fences, the $50,000 Peapack for fillies and mares, the $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup over timber fences, the $25,000 Gladstone for three-year-olds, and the $25,000 Harry E. Harris, a maiden allowance. First post time is 1 p.m.
The Grand National, one of the oldest American steeplechase races and the richest race on the 2011 National Steeplechase Association schedule, is certain to be a key contest in determining the year-end champion.
Entering the 2 5/8-mile Grand National from a stunning upset in Saratoga Race Course’s $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) is former claimer Mabou, owned by Drawing Away Stable and trainer David Jacobson.
Owner Irv Naylor and trainer J.W. Delozier capped a banner day Saturday at the Far Hills Races when recent import Black Jack Blues made off with the $250,000 Grand National, the richest steeplechase in North America.
It was the third win on the day for the owner-trainer team, all but locking up the National Steeplechase Association owners’ championship for Naylor and providing Delozier with his best day as a trainer. Stablemates Imperial Gin and Lake Placid opened the day with victories, but Black Jack Blues came through in the big one.
The 8-year-old Irish import went immediately to the front under Ross Geraghty, set a contested pace, and turned aside challenges by Organisateur, Dynaski, and Your Sum Man on the final turn to win by seven lengths. Black Jack Blues covered the 2 5/8 miles over soft turf in 5:29 4/5, improving his American record to 2 for 2 since arriving in late September. Organisateur, also an Irish-bred owned by Naylor, finished second, with Dynaski third.
Black Jack Blues raced in England with trainer Rebecca Curtis, winning three times over hurdles and three times over chase fences before being purchased in September for Naylor’s large stable. The son of Definite Article won a restricted stakes at Virginia Fall on Oct. 1 and repeated the performance in the Grade 1 Grand National.
The approximately 45,000 attendees are also part of fall tradition that has raised more than $17 million for the medical center in Somerville over the past 57 years.
As for the Grand National it isn't the last steeplechase race of the year:
The Grand National did little to decide the steeplechase championship as
2011 Grade 1 winners Tax Ruling and Mabou did not factor. Grade 1 horses get another chance in the $100,000 Colonial Cup on Nov. 19 in Camden, S.C.
The quality of American chasers has really gone to pot. The winner of the $250k Grand National at Far Hills, Black Jack Blues, was running in a $10k Novice Chase at Ffos Las as recently as the end of August... that's an 8yo still running in Novice Chases. Btw he won that race after the three other horses in the 4 horse field fell. Granted he got a late start in life, not hitting the track till he was a 6yo, but he would be a a very mediocre horse by NH standards... now he's a $250k G1 winner.
Likewise the runner-up Organisateur, he would be a decent handicap hurdler, but not a graded horse. Surely there are horses in the US that can out run and jump these guys?
The quality of American chasers has really gone to pot. The winner of the $250k Grand National at Far Hills, Black Jack Blues, was running in a $10k Novice Chase at Ffos Las as recently as the end of August... that's an 8yo still running in Novice Chases.
American Steeplechasing (NSA level) being a bit more a just for weekend fun club as opposed to a highly-competitive betting driven sport does continue to make it an "always at risk of disappearing" novelty.
As a sport its popular with audiences if only because its a way to enjoy a day in the country with tailgating. Let anyone drink a good wine out of the boot of their car and be entertained for a few minutes every hour with horses going by and you will draw in folks. The audiences however do not demand (or might not even appreciate entirely) that they are seeing a Red Rum level horse.
Let's face it there are about 3 trainers for the entire sport that continually have winners and about an equal amount of owners with pronounced victories. That exceptionally tight knit business doesn't necessarily demand the need for a Frankel-like rockstar to appear. If there was one to appear I don't know if they'd know what to do with him/her.
Its been years since a US runner (NSA) has been shipped to Europe for a score. While in the mean time several modest runners have been acquired and imported to success - like Percussionist did last year and this time Black Jack Blues - in an NSA race. For the Grand National (based upon written accounts) it seems to have been littered with issues for the heavy-weight contenders: Tax Ruling and Mabou were pulled up on the yielding turf course and Divine Fortune lost his rider. Last’s year’s winner Percussionist also was pulled up.
Despite the bigger paycheck at Far Hills it appear that The Colonial Cup (November 19) draws more serious competition for the year end race and deciding top honors.
Also worth noting that BJB was a bad bleeder in England, and now in the States he can run on Lasix...
Funny you bring that up, because I actually looked into the lasix angle yesterday and according to Equibase both of his starts in the US have been without Lasix. He was the only one of the 14 runners on in the race on Sat that ran lasix free.
The other Naylor runner, Organisateur, did run on Lasix.
I'm surprised that for a $250k purse there aren't more middle distance turf horses that get pointed to this race and others like it. I'm thinking of horses like Musketier, Pool Play, Prince Will I Am... they can run all day, but are not quite up to G1 standard going 12f on the flat, but would be competitive at G2 and G3 level. For $250k it would be worth stretching them out and giving them a spin over the sticks.
I guess there is a certain amount of a disconnect between the flat and jumps in the US (ignoring for a second a few obvious exceptions like Sheppard and Voss etc).
I'm surprised that for a $250k purse there aren't more middle distance turf horses that get pointed to this race and others like it. I'm thinking of horses like Musketier, Pool Play, Prince Will I Am... they can run all day, but are not quite up to G1 standard going 12f on the flat, but would be competitive at G2 and G3 level.
I concur with the line of logic and wonder too why there are almost zero takers.
You'd think with the few but solid $100k+ NSA purses such as the Grand National or the Turf Writers at Saratoga that someone would redirect a good 4 or 5-yr turf horse (with a likely knack for jumping) and go after these races. We've seen only a handful of such horses - Old Man Buck, Straight Gin, Lake Placid and even Augustin Stables Rochester try steeplechasing after flat racing.
The Firestone family is one of those rarities with a flat focus but trying steeplechasing. Although their Lake Placid was claimed away this year and now is in the stable of the leading NSA owner so go figure. The other being the Ramsey Stables which with one chaser has enjoyed a lot of returns for what was effectively a lark. Earning the 2010 Eclipse Award for their Slip Away. To the point before he's banked more money (and acclaim) in chasing than he would've had been in modest turf flat races.
There will always be a rather large quality gap between horses who are bred for their jobs as chasers are in Europe and horses who are flat racing discards as in the US. We simply don't have NH quality mares over here. Since most of the NH stallions have come from the ranks of flat racing, having generations of mares with proven chasing produce likely makes all the difference in the World.
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