Far Hills Spotlight: Wide Open Grand National

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And the big one. The $450,000 Grand National. The richest race of the year. The puzzle of the year. An eclectic nine converge for the sport’s biggest prize. America’s premier race looks more like a handicap chase at Uttoxeter or a Ballinrobe as eight of the nine starters began their careers or still make their careers in Europe. 

Days Of Heaven. If you’re betting, don’t bet early. Watch and wait, see how the French-bred, British-raced veteran handles the paddock, the gallop down to the start, the circling before the start. He’s been known to make more moves than Tina Turner. Tried this race in 2016, finishing 25 lengths behind Rawnaq before running respectably in the Colonial Cup. After that, he rattled off three consecutive chase wins in England before things got tougher, he now rides a seven-race losing streak. Been here with this in mind for a while, Fisher in your corner, adds Lasix, but still a big ask.

Jaleo. Promising hurdler when with John Ferguson, German-bred moved to Ben Pauling after Ferguson retired and managed a win over fences in June at Worcester. Bruton Street-US purchased him there a few starts back and shipped him here for this. Adds blinkers and Lasix and hoping for a wake-up call. Has shown glimmers of form to think he could carve a niche here but hard to endorse in a race that looks far tougher than novice chases at Fontwell and Worcester.

Tornado Watch. Here’s another Irish raider following in the footsteps of plenty who have come to make a quick buck at Far Hills. Traditionally, 9-year-olds don’t reinvent themselves here and he lacks depth to his form. Won a couple of handicap hurdle races this spring before dabbling on the flat. Cool horse with five wins to his credit, probably not the perfect candidate but finds an open renewal.

Hammersly Lake. If at first you don’t succeed…10-year-old French-bred chaser returns to Far Hills for another crack at the sport’s biggest prize. He finished fifth in last year’s renewal and has subsequently won twice. Charlie Longsdon, who spent a summer with Todd Pletcher at Saratoga, opts against Lasix, which was used in 2017. That day, he ran a bit flat. Perhaps, that was the culprit. Certainly live.

Clarcam. Another one who doesn’t appear to be in his best form after disappointing efforts in the New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga and the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park. In the latter, the 10-time winner appeared to be loping on the lead within his comfort zone but the tent folded quickly when the racing began. Certainly better suited to this trip, this ground, this terrain and gets connected with the wunderkind Jack Kennedy, but hard to fathom how he relights a fire that looks to be smoldering at best.

All The Way Jose. Sadly, the only American-bred horse in the race, the 8-year-old veteran tries to find the form that placed him in a three-way photo in last year’s renewal. As good as he was that day, he’s been missing ever since. A mild injury put a speed bump in his path early and it’s been bumpy ever since with a fourth in the Temple Gwathmey, a fall in the Iroquois (while going well, albeit, still early) and two busts at Saratoga. Returns to his favorite course. Nagle opts for Dawalan. If you think about it, you wouldn’t be shocked.

Jury Duty. Gordon Elliott plundered Far Hills last year and returns with the same goal in mind. Seven-year-old hasn’t won since November but has produced three seconds and a third in quality races like the Kerry National and Galway Plate. Finished second behind the likes of Woodland Opera, Snow Falcon and Shattered Love. That’s iron strong form. Be warned.

Hinterland. Returned from the hinterland with a strong second in the Lonesome Glory at Belmont. Closed ground that day and hit the board for the first time since a lopsided second in the 2017 Iroquois, surprising Fisher, McDermott and everybody else (well, other than ST’s Joe Clancy who hit the triple) that day. Likable horse with a chance.

Dawalan. Any juice still in the lemon? Had the sport by the scruff in 2015 when he won the Grand National and Colonial Cup in his first season. Whew, a lot of water, or a little water (depending on how you look at it) has gone over his bridge since. He’s only run once and that was a debacle in the Iroquois last spring when a jumping blunder finished his race, his day, his season. Now did it finish his career? Made for America, he showed his talent and tenacity three years ago and he looked fit and ready at a public day at Shawan Downs a few weeks ago. Lazarus, anyone?