The Inside Rail

Contributions from TIHR co-founder, editor and writer Sean Clancy.

Monday Afternoon High

Starting to come off the Far Hills high, but just. Awesome day of racing, albeit smaller fields for lesser purses but still refreshing to be back at American steeplechasing’s championship day. 

Now, it’s back to work. Nothing like going back to work after a weekend winner. 

City Dreamer won the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, bouncing back from a 0-for-9 skid going all the way back to the Iroquois Steeplechase in 2019. Cool, hard-trying, over-achieving horse relished the 2 1/2 miles at Far Hills. Beautiful ride by Graham Watters. Driving over the hill as night descended over Far Hills, I thought about the horse’s generosity – all horse’s generosity. City Dreamer came to Far Hills riding that losing streak (he lost to Snap Decision four times and The Mean Queen once) and ran at Far Hills like he was on top of the world. The resiliency of the Thoroughbred. 

The Mean Queen stood up once more staving off a gallant Snap Decision to win the Grand National. All sports need rivalries, ones that are decided on the field, no excuses, best athlete wins. Tough and resolute, the Irish-bred mare has put together a season for the ages. 

Historic Heart welcomed Atlantic Friends Racing to the U.S. with a hard-fought win in the opener, the Harry E. Harris. Sharp import Presence Of Mind dominated the Appleton. Realist continued the European domination of the Gladstone. The only American-bred winner on the card, Down Royal, beat two rivals and a thunderstorm to win the finale. Jockey Bernie Dalton talked about retirement. Hers. Not his. 

For more from The Inside Rail, check out the blog's main page. 

Far Hills

Christmas Eve. The Far Hills Steeplechase is tomorrow. 

Like everyone involved in American steeplechasing, the New Jersey race meet has rocked my world from the beginning. Back when we called it Essex and it was a country meet, complete with pony races and mud slides down the hill. My dad won the big race there, the Samuel K. Martin, a couple of times with Owhata Chief, hit the board a couple of more times with Heart Of The Desert and a few others. I was in the winner’s circle after Smokum Scout (I think…) broke his maiden there, three future champion jockeys (Blythe and Chip Miller and me) and a future champion trainer (Sanna Neilson) in a winner’s circle photo. From 1983-85, it was Red Raven launching my career and crowning his career with three straight. I only fell off in the first one. 

As a jockey, there was Abacus when we needed him most in 1991, Rowdy Irishman in a slog in 1997, Atomostic in another slog a few years later. Surely, there were others…but maybe not. 

As an owner, Dictina’s Boy, Yellow Mountain and The Grange have provided big days. There have been far more losses than wins, but that’s the game, for all of us.

Six-race card tomorrow. Small fields, reduced purses, but it’s still Far Hills. In a game where we are losing the destination meets – Rolling Rock, Colonial Cup, Little Everglades to name a few – we still have Far Hills. May it last forever. 

For more from The Inside Rail, check out the blog's main page. 

Virginia Fall

Beautiful day of racing at Virginia Fall Saturday. Perhaps, the biggest crowd I’ve seen there, the cars stretched over the hill and into the knoll of general admission, the tailgates went up and toward the last fences. Overcast skies. Good ground. Competitive racing. Storm Team jumped electrically to win the The National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, veteran New Member relished the change of pace in the Alfred Hunt, Drewscourt was impressive in his U.S. debut and Neil Morris racked up a triple. 

Title races are heating up with Tom Garner and Graham Watters, each looking for their first titles, tied atop the jockey standings. Both have choice rides from here to Charleston. Skylar McKenna swept the card at Genesee Valley to lose her bug and move into third, four back of the leaders. 

Neil Morris and Leslie Young, each searching for their first titles, are locked at the top of the trainer standings. Jack Fisher lurks one back. Keri Brion has a chance, she’s three back. 

Buttonwood leads all owners with $364,850. Irv Naylor chases, almost $100,000 back. With leading earner The Mean Queen aiming at the Grand National at Far Hills, that title could be clinched Saturday for the Pennsylvania-based Buttonwood Farm. 

As for the doubleheader, the Braves rocked the Pirates 10-4 behind gems thrown by Devin and Brendan. Lemonade Thursday got rocked in the allowance hurdle and Twenty Years On scratched at Virginia Fall.

For more from The Inside Rail, check out the blog's main page. 


Braves vs. Pirates. Nine o'clock start. Catharpin. 

Virginia Fall Races. One o'clock start. Glenwood Park.


Miles in the opener. Lemonade Thursday and Tweny Years On in the finale. 

In the words of my friend, George Baker, must dash. Enjoy the day.

For more from The Inside Rail, check out the blog's main page. 


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