Far Hills – the Show of Shows

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"Image"Far Hills, the greatest show in American steeplechasing, goes to the post Saturday with an all-stakes card worth $550,000. In anticipation, ST will do a daily online update this week. Check back often for news and notes on the course, the horses, the people, the history.

Today’s topic, the course. Through the magic of his mobile phone, race meet co-chairman Guy Torsilieri sent the photo shown here. As usual, the place looks simply marvelous – green, manicured, superb. In five days, that scene will feature Thoroughbred horses and people in various capacities. Let’s hope the weather is as glorious as it looks in that photo because heaven knows Far Hills is known or its weather.

Mother Nature has dished up her share over the years. Rain, wind and mud have been common guests. Old-timers talk about snow, but I’m not so sure. Anyway, the forecast calls for slight chances of showers one-day this week and – yes – on Saturday too. Slight (40 percent according to weather.com). Let’s push that percentage down a bit, please.

Anyway, torsilieri said the course is perfect at the moment, but also added that it won’t be firm.

“The course can take some rain, I don’t want four inches like we’ve gotten a few times, but it can take some rain,” he said. “We get a great heavy dew every night, which locks in the moisture which really helps. It’s in great shape.”

Guests can anticipate a few changes at the historic course, including a new look in the paddock area. The jockeys’ room was moved to the other side of the tower – giving jockeys better access to the scales and more privacy. The move shifts the press tent to the old jocks’ tent location and necessitated the extension of the stonedust path along the race course – not the white rail and the path on the right of the photo. The paddock will remain on the race course, as in years past, with the temporary chain again going around three sides.

“You change one thing, you have to change something else, sometimes 10 things, that’s the way it goes,” said Torsilieri. “Moving the jockeys to the other side makes sense for everyone, but we had to run the path on past the tower so jockeys can get their tack back to the barn.”

As usual, the Far Hills card will include the variety of classy stakes – the Peapack for fillies and mares, the Foxbrook for novices, the Appleton for open horses going short, the Grand National for open horses going long, the Gladstone for 3-year-olds and the New Jersey Hunt Cup for timber horses.

In addition, Far Hills will salute course legend McDynamo who went 7-for-7 at Far Hills including victories in the last five Grand Nationals. In a ceremony before the Grand National, McDynamo will be on hand to receive his rightful honor as the “King of Far Hills” complete with video highlights, a bag of carrots fit for a horse, a commemorative blanket and a trophy for owner Michael Moran.

“It should be fun,” said Torsilieri. “He deserves some kind of send-off. He was such a part of our race meet for so long that people recognize his name and know what he accomplished.”

Trained by Sanna Hendriks, McDynamo retired at the end of the 2007 season with a record $1,310,104 in American steeplechase earnings and three seasonal championships.