Far Hills preview: Steeplechasing returns to the sport’s ‘Grand’ stage

Seven races, including six stakes, and $625,000 in purses are up for grabs on Saturday’s card, which will be broadcast nationally by Fox Sports. First race post time is 12:50, and wagering will be available.

The Far Hills Race Meeting looks to draw a big crowd on Saturday. ©Tod Marks

By Tod Marks

The Far Hills Races at Moorland Farm in New Jersey kicks off its second century with the 101st running of the National Steeplechase Association’s marquee meet, a feast of seven sensational matchups anchored by the Grade 1 $250,000 Grand National which has drawn an international assembly of classy jumpers. 

Click here for all the entries: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/FarHills-Overnight-WedEntries1.pdf

Snap Decision and Graham Watters en route to winning the 2022 Jonathan Sheppard at Saratoga. ©Tod Marks

A field of nine is expected for the feature, including six Irish-breds, a German-bred and English-bred, and the lone runner with a Kentucky pedigree, the star of the show, Bruton Street-US’ Snap Decision, trained by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher and ridden once again by Graham Watters. Two of the Irish-breds have made the trip from Europe specifically for the Grand National.

Unlike the recent Lonesome Glory at Aqueduct, where the dual 2022 Grade 1 winner was upset by 41-1 Noah and the Ark, who was getting 28 pounds from Snap Decision under the race’s handicap conditions, the Grand National is a weight-for-age contest. All runners will carry 156 pounds over 2 ⅝ miles. That’s 12 pounds less than Snap Decision shouldered at Aqueduct.

Though Buttonwood Farm’s The Mean Queen, who narrowly bested Snap Decision in the 2021 Grand National to clinch the Eclipse Award, will miss the race with an untimely injury – a continuation of bad luck that has limited her to a single start this season – the field taking on the 8-5 morning-line favorite has strong credentials.

Jack Fisher saddles another venerable veteran in Snap Decision’s Bruton Street stablemate and the 2020 Eclipse-Award winner, Moscato. Now 11, Moscato, by virtue of his age, was ineligible to compete on the NYRA circuit this year. He’s a 12-time winner of nearly half-a-million dollars, but has raced only twice in 26 months. He was competitive but finished far behind Iranistan and Snap Decision, the runner up, in the G II Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg Spring, but was no factor in the G1 Iroquois in Nashville several weeks later, which his stablemate won. He had a training-flat prep for the Grand National last month at Shawan Downs. Connor Hankin rides.

Keystone Thoroughbreds’ Noah and the Ark, who at age 8 captured the Lonesome Glory coming from midpack to score by nine lengths in his only start this year, will attempt to topple his foe again for owner-trainer Todd McKenna and regular rider Harry Beswick. But it will be a considerably tougher task at equal weights.

Leading 2022 trainer Leslie Young has European import Pistol Whipped, owned by Anthony and Mark Speelman, ready and rested. Pistol Whipped, a National Hunt Cup winner for legendary trainer Nicky Henderson, shipped stateside and finished second to Snap Decision in the Iroquois, but bled in the A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga in July. He’ll be permitted to use lasix at Far Hills. Top European rider Nico DeBoinville crosses the Atlantic for the mount, as he did for Pistol Whipped’s two previous outings. Young has another newcomer, Song For Someone, a highly accomplished seven-year-old German-bred, who runs in Gil Johnston’s orange and brown silks. Song for Someone was a bit washy before his U.S. debut in the Sheppard, where he mounted a rally but tired in the drive. His performance in the Lonesome Glory was somewhat similar. Tom Garner rides.

With The Mean Queen on the sidelines, trainer Keri Brion is calling on recent stable addition Metahorse Racing’s Ask Paddington to fill her big shoes. Ask Paddington was on a four-race win streak coming into his first NSA start, in the Lonesome Glory, and the eight-year-old got up for third, just three-quarters of a length behind Snap Decision, despite some shaky jumping early on. Danny Mullins, one of three European-based riders flying over for the event, has the mount. Mullins is no stranger to Far Hills, having captured the 2017 Grand National with Mr. Hot Stuff. He also rode Ask Paddington at Aqueduct.

Since launching his NSA career in the spring, Irv Naylor’s Belfast Banter, trained by Cyril Murphy, boasts a second-place finish in the David Semmes Memorial at Great Meadow in May, a race run so bizarrely that it’s tough to handicap off of it. But he was no threat in either the Sheppard or Lonesome Glory. In the former, though, he made up ground after the final flight to pass tiring rivals in the long run on the flat to the wire. Jamie Bargary, who has been on a tear since August, will be aboard.

Hewick out for a canter in Pennsylvania earlier this week.

One of the two European shippers is Hewick, trained by Irishman John Joseph “Shark” Hanlon and ridden by Jordan Gainford. Installed as the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, the seven-year-old, a bargain-basement acquisition known as “the peoples’ champion” for his triumphant exploits, won three hurdle races and four over chase fences including the Galway Plate in July at 16-1. He’s won in England and Ireland, over good and soft turf, so that should suit him well at Far Hills. The only question is whether the distance might be a bit short for him. He also has two DNFs this season, notably unseating his rider three weeks ago in the Guiness Kerry National Handicap at Listowel.

Global Citizen out for a stroll in Maryland earlier this week.

Also making the journey with Hewick is Global Citizen, 10, trained by Englishman Ben Pauling and ridden by Kielan Woods. A four-time hurdle winner, Global Citizen boasts a score in the Johnny Henderson handicap chase over heavy ground at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival in March. Whereas the race might be too short for Hewick, it may be too far for Global Citizen, whose 28-1 shocker at Cheltenham came at 2 miles. Most of his races have been at even shorter distances. In his previous start last month, Global Citizen was pulled up. Pauling has twice ventured to the U.S. before, both in 2018 and both in Grade 1s, when he saddled Oskar Denarius in the A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga and Jaleo in the Grand National. Both finished out of the top three.

How to watch

The Grand National will be broadcast live on America’s Day at the Races, produced by the New York Racing Association in partnership with Fox Sports. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. Fox NYRA host Acacia Clement will anchor the coverage from Far Hills joined by Joe Clancy and Richard Migliore.

America’s Day at the Races will air on FS2 from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.

As always, you can alternately watch Saturday’s races via live stream from the link on the NSA homepage, www.NationalSteeplechase.com. The stream, sponsored by Brown Advisory, is offered through Mandolin, which hosted the NSA spring meets. There is a fee to watch the stream, and meets can be viewed and paid for individually or for the entire Fall season.

How to wager

Outside of the NYRA circuit and a few hunt meets, pari-mutuel wagering on steeplechasing is a rarity, but on Saturday fans have the chance to bet on all their favorites through 4NJBets, which is partnered with TVG. To sign up, deposit, and wager, you’ll need to download the 4NJBets app or visit 4njbets.com. Fans are encouraged to sign up, and to download the app, in advance and be sure to use promo code 200FARHILLS. That way, you can place your first win wager up to $200 on a single horse and get it back as wagering credit if you don’t win. Note that there will not be mutuels tellers onsite for wagering.

For fans who live outside of the state of New Jersey, wagering can be done through either TVG or NYRABets.

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