Finally, here it is. After a week of looking at entries, handicapping (or trying to), writing previews, piecing together our “Spotlight” packages of each race – and doing all the other things we do in the course of a work week (how about a tour of Fair Hill Training Center for some Irish guests?) – it’s time to pick some winners for the Far Hills Races.
The heat gets turned up a bit as North America’s most important day of jump racing adds full pari-mutuel wagering, on site and via simulcast outlets around the world, this year. There’s a Far Hills/NYRA Pick Four connecting the fifth and sixth at Far Hills with the ninth and 10th at Belmont Park and even something called “jump insurance” if you wager through twinspires.com.
Get tied on.
If you’re keeping score, and who isn’t?, the TIHR handicappers missed more than they hit last week at Genesee Valley and Virginia Fall. Sean came up with Doc Cebu, Fletched and Le Chevalier. Joe had Doc Cebu and Aldous Snow. Tom had Doc Cebu and Le Chevalier. That gives Sean eight winners this fall, Tom six and Joe 5. Turn the page. Nothing to see here, and how were we supposed to know Doug Fout was going to win three at Virginia Fall?
Far Hills Races. Post time is 1 p.m. There’s a live stream online and you should be able to watch and wager at your favorite racetrack, OTB and/or account wagering provider.
First race. $50,000 Gladstone Stakes for 3-year-old hurdlers going 2 1/8 miles. Predictably, it’s wide open. Eight of the 10 exit the same race at Shawan Downs, which should give you an idea on form. Roller Rolls On won that by a half-length. Might be different this time.
Sean: Snowie Hill, Roller Rolls On, Flushed.
Tom: Snowie Hill, Roller Rolls On, Knockholt.
Joe: Knockholt, Snowie Hill, Caldbeck.
Second race. $50,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. For Far Hills, it’s not that tough even though it’s a fair enough race. Experience takes on youth. Khafayya, Motivational, Snuggling and Special Relation fit the first category. Zeppelin Ride and Highly Prized occupy the second.
Sean: Highly Prized, Motivational, Special Relation.
Tom: Motivational, Special Relation, Khafayya.
Joe: Special Relation, Motivational, Snuggling.
Third race. $50,000 handicap hurdle (for horses rated 125 and below) going 2 1/2 miles. Cool group of veterans coming from all over. Mercoeur is the 158-pound highweight and comes out of three stakes starts. He was fourth over the course last year and won a similar race at Montpelier. Wild Dynaformer, Indigo Heart, Invocation and Osmoz all won their most recent starts. How’s your dart game?
Sean: Mercoeur, Osmoz, Cheers To Us.
Tom: Mercoeur, Osmoz, Invocation.
Joe: Invocation, Mercoeur, Wild Dynaformer.
Fourth race. $125,000 Foxbrook novice hurdle stakes going 2 1/2 miles. Love that the race organizers split this into divisions (like they did in 2013). This looks like the tougher group with Saratoga winners Surprising Soul and Boss Man leading the way. The former is developing into a nice horse. The latter is the top first-year novice out this year. City Dreamer carries 20 pounds less than Surprising Soul. Veneer Of Charm comes over from Ireland and moves from Gordon Elliott (who won this last year with Zanjabeel) to Ricky Hendriks – and adds blinkers.
Sean: Surprising Soul, Boss Man, City Dreamer.
Tom: Boss Man, Surprising Soul, Belisarius
Joe: Surprising Soul, City Dreamer, Boss Man.
Fifth race. $125,000 Foxbrook novice hurdle stakes going 2 1/2 miles. The second division of the day’s secondary feature. Probably not quite as much quality here, but a good group. Cite could be any kind. Gibralfaro has won three of 14. Amschel has won three of four. Set To Music brings the pedigree. Ice It has been second in this race twice and leads the field with 17 jump starts and $203,600 earned (he wouldn't look that out of place in this year's Grand National). All For Us has never been worse than third in seven tries. Detroit Blues looked great when third in return off two-year layoff at Belmont.
Sean: Cite, Amschel, All For Us.
Tom: Amschel, Cite, Gibralfaro.
Joe: Cite, Gibralfaro, All For Us.
First leg of Far Hills/NYRA Pick Four: The Belmont-Monmouth at Far Hills Pick 4, to be hosted by NYRA with a $0.50 minimum wager and 24 percent takeout, will be available on-track, to members of NYRA Bets as well as in simulcast facilities across the country. For more information visit https://nyra.com/CrossCountry.
The Belmont-Monmouth at Far Hills Pick 4
Leg 1: Foxbrook Champion Novice Hurdle (Race 5 at Monmouth at Far Hills 3:40 P.M.)
Leg 2: G1 Grand National Hurdle Stakes (Race 6 at Monmouth at Far Hills 4:20 P.M.)
Leg 3: Empire Distaff (Race 9 at Belmont 4:48 P.M.)
Leg 4: Empire Classic (Race 10 at Belmont 5:23 P.M.)
Sixth race. $450,000 Grand National Grade 1 hurdle stakes going 2 5/8 miles. The big one really is the big one as the winner gets $270,000 and will go to the top of the earnings leaderboard for American steeplechasers (past the injured two-time Grade 1 winner Zanjabeel, which is a shame). American-trained Days Of Heaven, All The Way Jose, Hinterland and Dawalan try to deny the English and Irish raiders Jaleo, Tornado Watch, Hammersly Lake, Clarcam and Jury Duty. The latter is the 2-1 favorite off a second last out at Gowran Park for Elliott and jockey Robbie Power. Hammersly Lake has won two this year and is 3-1 for Charlie Longson and Brian Hughes, but was fifth here last year. Pretty wide open.
Sean: Dawalan, Hinterland, Hammersly Lake.
Tom: Hinterland, Dawalan, Hammersly Lake.
Joe: Dawalan, Days Of Heaven, Jury Duty.
Second leg of Far Hills/NYRA Pick Four.
Seventh race. $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup timber stakes going 3 1/4 miles. A field of seven including the second and third home at Shawan Downs in Top Man Michael and Kings Apollo. They’ll put on a show.
Sean: Top Man Michael, Kings Apollo, Two's Company.
Tom: Top Man Michael, Kings Apollo, Carrick Boy.
Joe: Top Man Michael, Kings Apollo, Two’s Company.