The Inside Rail

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. 

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