The Appleton at Far Hills has carried many conditions over the years and this year's version brings together horses rated from 140 to 110. An eclectic group, some with eyes squarely on the $50,000 prize while others are providing days out for their connections.
1. Perfect Union. Remember when he was 3-year-old champion? Just two years ago but plenty of water under and over the bridge since then for big, beautiful son of Purim. Actually ran OK in his final start at Saratoga, when 3 ¼ lengths behind Special Skills, who has a shot in the Foxbrook. In receipt of 17 pounds from high weight, but still has questions to answer.
2. Lyonell. German-bred won over yielding turf at Radnor in the spring and was put on the shelf for the summer, makes his return without a training flat race. Hooks up with five-time champion Paddy Young while carrying 142 pounds. Spots experience but looks talented.
3. Class Cherokee. Another one who skipped the summer, he's won twice in his career but failed to threaten novice stakes horses this spring. Ran well over the course as a 3-year-old and 4-year-old and could threaten again. Needs to settle and make a run, which should work with speed signed on from a couple of different sources.
4. Time Out. Wow, what a performance at Shawan Downs, doing a cannonball into the picnic of "only high weights win the ratings races" detractors. He opened up 25 that day (could have been more), wisely took a breather, then kicked on to win easily over established rivals. With Alice Mills' 5-pound claim, he carries a feathery 137. Catch me if you can.
5. Lune de Caro. A versatile and fascinating character in a game full of characters, he gets 10 pounds from high weight here, after knocking off another 5 pounds with Keri Brion's claim. Decent flat spin at Virginia Fall should have him primed for this. The one to beat.
6. Awesome Pearl. The Appleton offers a perfect spot for horses like this, not quite an open stakes horse and graduated out of novice division. Three-time winner over 2013-14 seasons but then skipped all of 2015 and has yet to regain his best form in two tries, albeit, tough tasks. Willie McCarthy takes the call. Would not shock us.
7. Hisaabaat. Another one who had choices at Far Hills and opted for ratings race rather than novice or open stakes. Returned from a 13-month break in the Lonesome Glory but finished 40 lengths behind Scorpiancer. Trained by the great Dermot Weld in Ireland, he needs to find hurdle form that once had him rumbling with the likes of Countrywide Flame and Jezki, but that was all the way back in 2012, when he was rated 148, that was a long time ago.
8. Spirit Of Shankly. Veteran chaser provides 10-pound apprentice with a career opener here, it's a tough place to make riding debut but at least he's good partner as he makes his 24th career jump start. Cool horse, but would be a shock if he threatened top three places.