Four words that make fans of American jump racing pay attention - the Far Hills maiden. It's not quite the Breeders' Cup Classic, but is one of the year's most anticipated races with big purse ($50,000 this year), big stage and big opportunity. Win this, and people pay attention. Past winners include Hall of Famer McDynamo, which ought to be enough to make you pay attention.
This year, a full field of 10 will head to the post (with seven on the also-eligible list) as the second race on the day (1:40 p.m. approximately) at 2 1/8 miles.
Strongbox: Four-year-old ships up from South Carolina off a maiden prep at Shawan. Trainer Kate Dalton and her husband/jockey Bernie won this last year with The Grange off the exact same setup. Lost for a $5,000 claiming price at Turfway Park this winter so he will need to find more speed against a salty group.
Hooded: It's about time. He's been second four times in six jump starts for Irv Naylor and Cyril Murphy. Five-year-old Empire Maker gelding bred by Juddmonte Farm was second at Shawan and always seems to run well - he just has yet to win. Overdue.
Coastal Moon: He sold for $200,000 as a yearling in 2012 and was claimed for $6,250 in January. Malibu Moon gelding (out of a Dixieland Band mare) should love the added distance but this is a tough spot to debut.
Meteoroid: Like Hooded, has been close - over and over again. In 10 tries over jumps, he's got four seconds and three thirds for Leslie and Paddy Young. Second to Castle Hill (who goes in the novice today) at Shawan and has also finished behind solid performers Second Amendment, All For Us, Kensington Court and Help From Heaven. Big experience edge. Can he make it pay off?
Atherton: Third behind Castle Hill and Meteoroid at Shawan, 6-year-old Langfuhr gelding makes his fourth hurdle start while on the improve from fifth to fourth to third. If he stays to form, he'll be second today. Decent flat form. Sitting on big effort.
Show King: First-timer for Jimmy Day was good enough to win six races on the flat while sticking mainly to the New York-bred program at Finger Lakes. Never tried the turf until winning a training flat race at Foxfield Sept. 25. Obviously handled that. Interesting rookie.
Ever So Lucky: Where have you been? He's 7 now, but it doesn't seem all that long ago that he was a rare top-flight 3-year-old for Augustin Stable and Jonathan Sheppard with starts in the Swale, Blue Grass and King's Bishop. The $600,000 yearling finished second to Gemologist in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club as a 2-year-old in 2011. Still owned by Augustin, the Indian Charlie gelding makes his hurdle debut for trainer Richard Valentine but has not run since June 2014. He has to be rusty, even with all the talent in the world.
Yellow Mountain: Put him in the same basket with Hooded and Meteoroid. Irish-bred son of Danehill Dancer makes his sixth hurdle start (after four seconds and a third in the first five). Second in this race two years ago, the Sheppard trainee hasn't run since July 2015, when he was beaten a nose at Parx. Prepped on the flat at Foxfield. Competitive every time he's run and can be again.
Mr. Jenney: Somebody compared Jack Fisher's horses to a battalion when they arrive at the races and you'd be wise to pay attention to them in every race at Far Hills. Six-year-old Medaglia d'Oro gelding ran twice this spring and gets to this off a brief freshening.
With Rhythm: Another from the Fisher barn, he finished fourth behind Castle Hill, Meteoroid and Atherton at Shawan. Eligible for big improvement. Good enough to win three on the flat (two in France with Andre Fabre and one at Gulfstream Park with Christophe Clement). Set up for big run.
Aflutter (off the bench for Sheppard), Big Feat (first-timer for Alicia Murphy), Analyst (who placed twice this spring but failed to finish in two starts this fall for Michael Leaf), Spoiler Alert (winless in seven tries over jumps for Billy Meister), Secret Soul (from owner/trainer/jockey Jeff Murphy), Wild Dynaformer (part of the Fisher brigade) and Signature Look (another Fisher band member) complete the list.