Far Hills Spotlight: Championship on the line in Grand National

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The big one. The richest race of the year at $400,000, the Grand National attracts America’s best and Europe’s ambitious.

All The Way Jose. So sweet to see the veteran earn his first Grade 1 stakes score with a polished score in the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park. Won over the course back when he was a novice and certainly at his career best. Inside post, break sharply, establish a spot, balance speed with stamina and hope he’s good enough.

Moscato. Jack Fisher and Bruton Street-US step out of their comfort zone and aim the sport’s best novice at the sport’s best race. Quick, ask the trivia department, has a maiden in April ever become a champion in October? Couldn’t have happened often, if ever. Remember, most novices haven’t made 10 starts, so he’s more experienced than you might think. Cruising speed, closing kick, electric jumper, on a roll, sport’s dominant trainer. Could happen.  Or not. We just heard he’s scratching. Can you believe that?

Katnap. Welcome to Far Hills, Breeders’ Cup winning jockey Joseph O’Brien. Yes, that Joseph O’Brien. Young Irish trainer brings French-bred, Irish-raced veteran on the road while riding a three-race losing streak (hell, that’s nothing, he once rode a 26-race losing streak). Finished second, beating 28 rivals, in the Topham, a challenging race over the Grand National fences at Aintree at the same distance. Gets Lasix for the first time. Jury’s out.

Modem. Well, hello weight-for-age. After three runner-up finishes in Grade 1 stakes when he gave away 14 to 18 pounds to the winner each time, the British-bred gets to carry equal weight here. Solid newcomer to the game this year and a horse who has been more consistent at the Grade 1 level than any of these. The horse to beat.

Casino Markets. British import finished eighth in the New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga, without Lasix, and fourth in the Lonesome Glory, with Lasix. Emma Lavelle said that he would be more suited to distance and hills, he sure looks like it. Well, he gets both here. Actually stayed on well at Belmont and could improve here. Ross Geraghty, who has won a few of these, replaces regular rider Leighton Aspell. Use at a price.

Jamarjo. Delicately placed this year, the 10-year-old won the National Hunt Cup on an emotional day before taking the summer off. Prep on the flat at Shawan should have him tight, but he’s yet to beat Grade 1 horses in two previous tries. Cool horse. Hot race.

Mr. Hot Stuff. Once called the Paris Hilton of horse racing, you know, famous for being famous, he’s still the most famous horse in steeplechasing. Veteran seems to have lost a step with four subpar efforts this year, although he was only beaten 5 ¼ lengths in the Lonesome Glory. Is there any magic left?

Hammersly Lake. Great to see Robert Aplin, Charlie Longsdon and Brian Hughes back for another crack at the Grand National after finishing third with the ill-fated Sharp Rise last year. For comparison, Sharp Rise was rated 156 while this 9-year-old is rated 155. Sharp Rise wasn’t treated with Lasix. Hammersly Lake will be treated. He’s won three of his last five over varying distances and courses and is, surely, as good or better than Sharp Rise with a canny team who might have learned a little something last year.