The Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills has questions. Will Hardrock Eleven jump straight? Can Castle Hill handle the jump from maidens? Can All That Rules stretch them out? Will Swansea Mile improve in his second start here? Can you draw a line through Ice It's effort at Belmont Park.
All That Rules. Well, here's the speed. We don't see many sons of Galileo over here, especially over jumps. Inconsistent in 2015, he actually posted two strong efforts last fall (he was on his way to winning when missing the turning lane at Montpelier) and one this spring, although those efforts were against weaker. Will offer a moment where you say, "Is he coming back?"
Special Skills. No trainer can keep a horse on the go like Fisher as this novice makes his seventh start this year but has kept (improved) his form as the season progressed. By the same sire as Tepin, he was decent on the flat and has done little wrong over jumps. Wouldn't shock us.
Miguel Grau. Another clever purchase by Valentine in England, we cashed on him at Suffolk and then forgot about him at Belmont when he finished second at a big price. McCarthy climbs back aboard which can only help as he's had six jockeys in 11 jump starts. Disappointed behind Scorpiancer in same race last year but he's gained experience since and looks live here.
Castle Hill. Beautiful horse who's done little wrong over hurdles, he deserved to win at Shawan Downs after two gallant efforts against winners at Saratoga. We usually look for horses with another year of experience when it comes to novice stakes, but he's talented, improving and certainly potent in a race with questions.
Aquies. Put to work early and often - he made nine jump starts in a year and somehow wound up in and out of Scott Lake's barn this summer - he actually stepped up and handled the massive jump from a conditioned claimer at Willowdale to a novice stakes at Belmont Park. Still, this is deep water for a 4-year-old with one career win against maiden claimers at Tryon.
Swansea Mile. Rated 134 over hurdles in England, he's most experienced horse in the field, Irish-bred makes his 18th career start over fences/hurdles. Ran fair in his U.S. debut, finishing fourth behind Grand National starters in the Lonesome Glory. The drop to novice foes can only help. Handled 2 ½ miles in England. Ross Geraghty, aboard for the first time, can ask Ruby Walsh for pointers as he was 2-for-2 on him.
Hardrock Eleven. Are you a believer yet? Rolls into this fresh off two scores in New York, including a slow-it-down-run-it-home scamper in the Entenmann at Belmont Park. Jumped to the right like a mailman goes down a street but still managed to skip away from Miguel Grau and Special Skills. Now, he's got to stretch his speed for another 2 furlongs and try to win at a hunt meet for the first time. Cool horse with his own style.
Ice It. Suckered bettors looking for the fresh horse at Belmont, flopping 12 lengths behind Hardrock Eleven as the favorite. Did he need the race? Did he not like the flat track? Or is he simply not as good as these? Well, you'll know Saturday. Certainly a horse who looks more suited to the hunt meet configuration than the flat track, he won over the course last year and don't ever discount Fisher.