Far Hills Picks & Preview

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The horses return to Far Hills Races Saturday for a full card highlighted by the American Grand National. Tod Marks photo

Here we are. It’s time for the Far Hills Races, American jump racing’s annual highlight with big purses, historic races, international competition, pari-mutuel wagering, television coverage and all the rest. Saturday’s card, as usual, packs a punch.

The $250,000 American Grand National – a race first run at Westchester County track Morris Park in 1899 – headlines in a showdown between America’s top steeplechaser Snap Decision and Irish raider Hewick plus potential spoilers Noah And The Ark and Pistol Whipped in a field of nine. You can watch it all on FS2 starting at 12:30 p.m. as Far Hills will be part of the America’s Day at the Races program featuring racing from Aqueduct Racetrack. TIHR’s Joe Clancy will be part of the show on location with Acacia Courtney and Richard Migliore.

And now for the picks. Last week at Virginia Fall and Genesee Valley, Joe had four winners (Welshman, Modus Operandi, Notjudginjustsayin and Andi’amu) while Sean and Tom had three each to make the autumn standings Joe (nine), Sean (seven), Tom (five).

You can watch Far Hills as part of America’s Day at the Races coverage produced by NYRA on FS2 from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Acacia Clement, Richard Migliore and TIHR’s Joe Clancy will be on the show, also available on the NYRA YouTube channel. There is no on-site wagering with tellers or self-service machines, but there is full pari-mutuel wagering via account wagering providers. The card starts with Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagers, a Pick 6 on races two through seven and a Pick 5 on races three through seven.

First race. $50,000 Harry E. Harris Stakes for 4-year-olds going 2 1/8 miles over hurdles. Field of six led by Proven Innocent, who rides a two-race winning streak into this. Ousted The Mean Queen in a novice stakes last time at Aqueduct. Brother to top flat horses On Leave, Norumbega and Ironicus won both of those with grinding stretch runs to get up in the final yards. He shortens up a bit here for the streaking Jamie Bargary who has won witih 12 of his last 26 rides. Who’s Counting has had a great year on the flat and over jumps. Ljay was a solid second at Foxfield in soft ground. Tease And Seize won twice in England and finally gets to American debut.

Joe: Proven Innocent, Who’s Counting, Tease And Seize.
Tom: Proven Innocent, Who’s Counting, Ljay.
Sean: Proven Innocent, Who’s Counting, Project Two.

Second race. $50,000 Gladstone Stakes for 3-year-olds going 2 1/8 miles over hurdles. Seven rookies tackle this. Irish raider The Insider tries to duplicate Realist’s easy win in this last year. Three starts will mean plenty against inexperienced foes. Still, not sure he’s quite as live as Realist was (maiden on the flat, etc.). Fleeting Atte looked good in stylish win at Shawan for Sean McDermott. He will need to improve from that but could. Carloun is interesting on jump debut. Don’t even try to say Shuyyookh.

Joe: The Insider, Fleeting Atte, Carloun.
Tom: The Insider, Hoffman, Fleeting Atte.
Sean: The Insider, Fleeting Atte, Greylover.

Third race. $75,000 Foxbrook champion hurdle novice stakes going 2 1/2 miles. Proven Innocent might have been favored in this too. Irish shipper Ted Hastings will be “going like the clappers” as his namesake would say. Has won three in a row and four of his last five. Two from Keri Brion, Howyabud and Baltimore Kid, should both appreciate a return to a hunt-meet course as opposed to the racetrack. Awakened looked strong in maiden win last out. This is a step up in class, but he’s run enough times to be competitive and won’t need anything specific to happen to run well. He’s also a half-brother to Grade 1 turf runner Imagining. Decisive Triumph (19 jump starts) comes in off a brief freshening and will run his race. The front-running style makes it difficult to pull an upset however.

Joe: Howyabud, Awakened, Baltimore Kid.
Tom: Awakened, Ted Hastings, Howyabud.
Sean: Awakened, Ted Hastings, Howyabud.

Fourth race. $50,000 Appleton Hurdle Handicap for horses rated 130 and below going 2 5/8 miles. Six show up here in a cool opportunity for horses who otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to run here. Theocrat is undefeated in two American starts after winning twice in 14 tries in England. He won at Colonial and Saratoga, but should love a place like Far Hills. Carries top weight, but deserves it. Fightinirishtabit tries to win while rising in class for the third consecutive time. Lightweight Senor Seville will keep grinding. Redicean gets a big class drop, but can he find his 2020 form? Soviet Pimpernel tries for Ireland off three thirds in his last four starts.

Joe: Theocrat, Senor Seville, Fightinirishtabit.
Tom: Theocrat, Redicean, Soviet Pimpernel.
Sean: Theocrat, Soviet Pimpernel, Grey Falcon.

Fifth race. $100,000 John Forbes Memorial turf stakes going 2 miles. Cross Border, a Grade 2 winner and millionaire, is in here but the 14-runner race feels wide open. The 3-1 morning-line favorite has lost six in a row including a New York-bred turf stakes at Aqueduct Sept. 24. Trainer Keri Brion likes what she sees. “He loves training at Fair Hill. He’s a completely different horse than I got two months ago. He doesn’t stall walk anymore, he loves training out back in the fields. It’s really cool to watch an older horse adapt to the chance of scenery.” That being said, he better have his track shoes on. There will be traffic, quality opponents and a demanding trip. Brion runner Agitare was keeping Group 3 company this spring in Ireland, though he’s 2-for-31 lifetime. He tuned up for this with a win at Foxfield Oct. 2. Fearsome has tons of back class and was second going 1 1/2 miles in May. Clubbing just won at Kentucky Downs. Michael Dickinson turns up with stakes-placed Royne. Greg Sacco counters with Oceans Map, second ahead of Royne in the Presious Passion at Monmouth Park Sept. 10, and Basso. Kent Sweezey runner Small Hope might love the trip. Mystical Man won two solid Laurel turf races for Jack Fisher last fall. Deep race. Pick a direction. Keep an eye on flat jockeys Isaac Castillo (Oceans Map), Nik Juarez (Basso) and Feargal Lynch (Royne).

Joe: Mystical Man, Agitare, Fearsome.
Tom: Oceans Map, Cross Border, Royne.
Sean: Agitare, Mystical Man, Royne.

Sixth race. $250,000 American Grand National hurdle stakes going 2 5/8 miles. The big one, with a solid field of nine. Last year, The Mean Queen and Snap Decision kept the field down to four but put on a show. This group has a tough act to follow. Snap Decision is back, looking for an Eclipse Award. Aqueduct upsetter Noah And The Ark can make that claim with a win. The Irish-based Hewick looks like a rising star, with major wins in the Galway Plate and Bet 365 (which used to be the Whitbread) to prove it. Pistol Whipped was second to Snap Decision in May going 3 miles. He shortens up, gets back on Lasix and has plenty of quality. Moscato is too old to run in New York, but already has an Eclipse Award in his closet (from 2020). Cheltenham Festival winner Global Citizen comes over from England. Ask Paddington was third at Aqueduct and should come on for that after winning four in a row in England. Belfast Banter is better than his last effort. Song For Someone gets Lasix for the first time and improved loads from Saratoga to Aqueduct. Go on, pick one.

Joe: Snap Decision, Hewick, Pistol Whipped.
Tom: Snap Decision, Hewick, Moscato.
Sean: Snap Decision, Ask Paddington, Pistol Whipped.

Seventh race. The $50,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/8 miles closes the card and drew a field of six (after scratch of Elusive Soul), all looking for a big payday for the level. Uco Valley has placed twice and got run down by Awakened last time. Pure Courage closed from way back to be third in that race. Cool Jet was second in deep ground at Foxfield, his first run since April. Parish Delight has been off since May after surviving a guttural pouch infection and surgery. He tuned up for this on the flat at Foxfield.

Joe: Pure Courage, Cool Jet, Parish Delight.
Tom: Cool Jet, Uco Valley, Neotropic.
Sean: Uco Valley, Cool Jet, Pure Courage. 

Read some more preview articles:

Snap Decision tries to land Grand National.

Hewick has Hanlon living the dream.

TV schedule on Fox Sports.

Early analysis after entries this week.