By popular demand, or something like that anyway, the team will do Closer Looks at all seven races on the Far Hills card Saturday. They’re a good way to get acquainted with the horses, the races, the tasks at hand.
Second race. Maiden Hurdle. $40,000. Traditionally, the best maiden race of the fall actually didn’t materialize as deep as it does most years. Of course, we’ll know a lot more about the quality a year from now than we do now.
The Gold Identity. Small but industrious trainer finally gets former Maryland-based flat horse in a race, after being excluded at Shawan Downs and Virginia Fall. Tough spot to make a debut but does pick up second leading jockey Doyle (as long as Gnostic doesn’t draw in) and sports a pedigree that should help him stay the trip. Hit the board just once – in a cheap maiden claimer at Delaware Park – in six tries on the flat and hasn’t made a start since April. We’ll watch.
Personal Start. Another one who made the overnight earlier in the fall but winds up making his debut here for quality outfit. Bred and owned by Maggie Bryant, the 4-year-old is by a decent jump sire, Jump Start, out of Personal Flag mare…stamina on stamina. Only made one start on the turf in his eight-start flat career and that was his best effort, when leading most of the way in a non-winners-of-two claimer at Gulfstream. Probably needs one.
Peace Fire. Wow, don’t see this very often. Leading trainer Jack Fisher reverts one back to hurdle racing after eight starts over timber. He’s been in the game so long, retired jockeys Willie Dowling and Xavier Aizpuru show up on his chart. Hard to believe he never broke his maiden over hurdles and when you look back, he could have easily done so with quality tries against the likes of Parker’s Project, Lake Placid, Baltic Shore and Inti. Switch back to hurdling has as much to do with jockey being loaded with timber horses but it wouldn’t shock us.
Meteoroid. One of the last sons of Dynaformer to make the typically easy transition from the flat to jump, Flaxman-bred 4-year-old makes his debut here after fetching £62,000 at Tattersalls last year. Sixth-place finish, albeit last, at Saratoga would certainly give him a solid chance here. Barn scored with a first-time starter at Shawan Downs and, assumingly, pointed their best maiden here. Live.
The Grange. Lightly raced mare was once a stablemate of two-time champion Wise Dan. She made her debut at Shawan Downs and was actually making up ground before an error at the last hurdle cost her impulsion. Connections opted for this instead of the filly and mare stakes a race earlier on the card and wound up catching a field light on experience (other than the timber convert Peace Fire, Irish import Mizyen and professional maiden Gun Point). If she can polish her effort at Shawan Downs, she’s another contender in the contentious, yet unproven, field.
Mizyen. Imported from Ireland this summer, he opened up a big lead in American debut at Parx, only to succumb to runaway winner Miguel Grau. Actually made six starts over hurdles in Ireland, failing to hit the board just once when he fell three out at Tramore. The Racing Post offered this comment back in the summer of 2014, “Mizyen is frustrating and was given a no-nonsense ride from the front. He wasn´t good enough and it is getting towards that stage when maiden hurdles become harder to win.” He hit the board three more times after that. Obvious contender.
Gun Point. Five-year-old son of Harlan’s Holiday makes his seventh start over hurdles. Six of those have come this year, finishing second at Radnor and third at Virginia Gold Cup and Shawan Downs. In his four starts with wagering this year, he’s hovered between 3-1 and 6-1 but has yet to reward his backers. An experience edge can take a horse a long way in a maiden hurdle…is today finally the day?
Atherton. A long awaited hurdle debut for son of Langfuhr who managed to win twice on the flat. Hops out of a strong showing in a training flat race at Shawan Downs, which showed he didn’t hold any grudges from getting trounced when overmatched in the John’s Call at Saratoga. Another promising rookie in a field of them.
Out Of The Fire. Stellar pedigree for this game, son of English Channel and the Dixieland Band mare Cajun Doll makes his second start over hurdles after finishing fifth (behind Gun Point and The Grange among others) at Shawan. Earned over $100,000 on the flat, which is way more than any other runner here. Trainer learned under Jack Fisher, so perhaps, first run was simply an educational effort and now the hammer drops. Perhaps.
The Duck. Son of El Corredor and the Quiet American mare Quiet Lucky makes debut here. Name another jumper out of a Quiet American mare and you get a prize. Jockey and trainer don’t have big numbers but have combined to at over 20 percent on the year. Exits high-profile flat barn of Al Stall’s and has been away since December. Makes hurdle debut, turf debut and 4-year-old debut.
Gnostic. Another son of Dynaformer, he needs a scratch to draw into the body of the race. Hard to fault his efforts behind Selection Sunday and Choral Society, but they were back in 2014. Jack Doyle takes the call while understudy Gus Dahl is tabbed for Atherton. Live, if he finds his way on the dance floor.