Barry Geraghty wanted to congratulate his brother Ross. There was just one problem.
"I couldn't catch him," Barry Geraghty said.
Nobody could catch Dawalan in the Grade 1 Grand National at Far Hills Oct. 17. Owned by Irv Naylor, trained by Cyril Murphy and ridden by Ross Geraghty, Dawalan jumped with precision and ran with explosion to garner the sport's richest race by a length. Barry Geraghty finished second aboard Irish import Eshtiaal with recent import Rawnaq (another Naylor/Murphy runner) a nose back in third. Veteran All Together finished fourth, with Naylor/Murphy veterans Decoy Daddy and Charminster completing the top six.
Dawalan provided the middle part of a high-octane triple for Naylor and Murphy, who also combined to take the Peapack and New Jersey Hunt Cup. The sport's leading owner clinched another earnings title, sending eight horses to Far Hills, earning a check with each to collect a cool $318,000.
For the Geraghty brothers, it was a moment to relish the sport of steeplechasing and appreciate the band of brotherhood even if they ply their trades on opposite sides of the Atlantic now.
"It took me to all the way around the corner to catch him," Barry Geraghty said, moments after the race. "It'll be awhile before I live that one down, it's been awhile since we were in a finish like that. I hadn't seen him in about 18 months, it was a great win for him, I'm delighted for him. I rode Dawalan to a good few wins for Nicky Henderson, it's good to see him do well. It was a good race and it sure was a great result."
Carol-Ann Sloan sent Decoy Daddy to the lead and Andrew Tinkler put British import Hunt Ball on the pace as well. Those two "banged it out head and head" as announcer Tony Bentley described it. A yawning gap emerged to the peloton, led by Rawnaq, Eshtiaal and Dawalan. Last year's Grand National winner Demonstsrative, with Paddy Young replacing an injured Robbie Walsh, galloped comfortably and relaxed toward the outside.
Turning down the backside the last time, Tinkler tried to create separation with Hunt Ball but failed as seven horses loomed like seawater over a sandcastle. Only six loomed after the first fence on the backside as Demonstrative, still within 4 lengths of the lead, stabbed, bobbled and lost all chance, forcing Young to wrap up on the 2014 champion.
Jumping the last down the backside, everything had changed. Hunt Ball retretead, Decoy Daddy regained the lead as Dawalan and Eshtiaal loomed wide and All Together tried to slip through on the inside.
Up the hill, Dawalan led Eshtiaal as Rawnaq tried to claw back the margin. Dawalan flew the last, opened up and held sway by a length over Eshtiaal and Rawnaq.
Long before the Grand National, Ross called Barry about Dawalan, who was ridden by Barry to two juvenile hurdle wins from eight rides. Barry told him a few things.
"I probably told him too much," Barry laughed.
Younger brother told older brother to hold onto Dawalan, wait to reach the lead on the gray son of Azamour.
Easier said than done.
"I knew Barry was there somewhere, but I didn't know where he was," Ross said of the moment when Dawalan hit the front. "I know he thought it was grand, 'you'll give me a lead and you'll stop.' He couldn't believe he stayed going."
Dawalan kept going to earn $180,000 and further muddle an Eclipse Award race. New York Turf Writers Cup and Lonesome Glory winner Bob Le Beau skipped the Grand National while Iroquois winner Demonstrative failed to recapture his best form. As it should, the Colonial Cup Nov. 21 could decide it.
For Murphy, Dawalan showed what he had shown him in the morning.
"He had been working like a machine the last few weeks," Murphy said. "He's small, but he's like a Jack Russell Terrier, he was traveling too well at Belmont, he got caught out. Today, he was grand."
Bred by the His Highness the Aga Khan's Studs in France, Dawalan was not meant to be a jumper. The 5-year-old is a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Turf winner and Turf Champion Daylami, as well as black-type performers Dalakhani (who won the Arc de Triomphe in 2003), Dalghar and Daymarti.
Dawalan made four starts on the flat in France for the Aga Khan, mustering two runner-up finishes and two fifths. After finishing fifth and last at Deauville in July, 2013, Dawalan shifted spheres to Henderson, making his debut over hurdles in November 2013. The gray gelding won four hurdle races but failed to threaten at the big meets, finishing 16th in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham and 15th in a Grade 3 hurdle at Aintree this spring. Purchased by Clancy Bloodstock and Stroud-Coleman Bloodstock for Naylor this spring, Dawalan finished a closing third in the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park.
Ross Geraghty left there with the 2 5/8-mile trek at Far Hills in his mind.
"I knew we would get the pace here and it would set up for us, I rode him much the same way, he jumped so well, he loved the ground, he was attacking everything, the last mile he just wanted to go," Geraghty said. "I didn't want to be in front too soon, but he was going so easy, I let him run through the bridle, he charged up the hill, pinged the last. When I got over the last, I just rode him hands and heels, I didn't want to go to the stick just in case he thought about pulling up. He did it easy enough."
As for his brother, Ross gave him credit, but won't share the money.
"Barry told me a lot about him, he said the longer you hold onto him and the more of a hold you take late in the race, the more he'll quicken," Geraghty said. "We are each other's biggest fans and biggest critics, we were the same growing up, when he did something wrong or I did something wrong, we were the first to tell each other what it was, it was great for both of us."
Watch the Grand National: