Far Hills Spotlight: The Peapack

- -

The Peapack opens the star-studded Far Hills card. Ten fillies and mares of varying experience and ability meet the starter’s flag for the 1 p.m. opener. Clarke Ohrstrom’s Kisser N Run seeks her third consecutive victory in the $75,000 stakes.

1. Brief Holiday. Six-year-old mare has converted from sprinting 6 furlongs on the dirt at Penn National to traversing 17 furlongs at Far Hills. Don’t see that very often. Actually ran well at Virginia Fall, albeit, in a weaker race and seems to be learning the game. Tough assignment, spotting experience all around.

2. Bittersweetheart. British-bred made her American debut here a year ago and actually took some action (one ST Handicapper picked her on top) but she failed to threaten, failing by 22 lengths behind Kisser N Run. Things have progressed with a win in the Henley this spring. Certainly appears to be a spring/fall horse rather than a summer horse and should improve off her effort in the Jeffords. Handled good ground in England. Live.

3. Bau Bai Gold. Green Velvet anyone? Connections shocked the world here when the inexperienced Green Velvet wired her contemporaries in 2010. Similar footprint here. Geraghty loves the front and the former champ won’t hang around to see if anyone else wants it. Crushed maidens at Foxfield, but these aren’t maidens. Trainer’s sister, who got her start in the pony races at Far Hills, rode her in January. Catch me if you can.

4. Ivy Mills. Jack Fisher has developed a formula over recent years where the first one is used for education and the second one counts. Well, here you go. Daughter of Broken Vow, owned by Michael “McDynamo” Moran, finished third in her debut at Shawan Downs and should be set up for this. Still, it’s a big ask when taking on more experienced rivals, over a demanding course. Dynaformer, sire of five-time Grand National winner McDynamo, adds depth to pedigree as sire of dam Threadneedle. At the least, it’s good to see some new blood in a traditionally weak division.

5. Hiwasee Gem. Seven-year-old homebred doesn’t run often, making just her sixth career start. Shocked a maiden distaff at Camden in the spring, then flopped against stakes rivals at Atlanta. Hall of Famer adds Lasix after a training spin at Shawan Downs. Would be a surprise.

6. E C’s Favorite. More new blood. Sheppard unveiled daughter of English Channel in a filly and mare maiden at Foxfield where she learned on the fly to finish third behind Bau Bai Gold. Third sounds OK, beaten nearly 28 lengths…well, not so OK. Leading jockey Willie McCarthy takes over from Walsh who obviously sticks with Kisser N Run. Improvement expected.

7. Kisser N Run. Hello, champ. Undefeated in two starts over the course, the 6-year-old mare has banked $185,000 in 12 starts over hurdles and should add to that register here. Forget the Henley miscue (trip, preparation), give her credit for a solid try at Saratoga (better than her efforts there last summer) and hope she’s over the blip that caused her to scratch from the Jeffords. Maybe not Zenyatta, but awesome. The champ until proven otherwise.

8. Missteria. One-time winner over hurdles stayed busy this summer, making four flat starts over the Delaware Park and Penn National dirt ovals. Returned to the infield sport with a fourth against conditioned claimers at Shawan Downs. Higher mountain to climb today. Owner/trainer has shocked the world before.

9. Lillehammer. So we meet again…New York-bred squares off with Kisser N Run for the sixth time (she’s finished behind her in five of those meetings). Excuse her Saratoga spin, it was exactly that. Note a decent spin in a training flat at Shawan Downs and perhaps she’s on a positive curve. Perhaps. Kisser N Run thrashed her over C/D two years ago but her saddle slipped that day. Not impossible, not probable.

10. Casablanca Lily. Hit the board over heavy ground in Ireland before emigrating to the U.S. last summer (seems like she’s been here longer than that) but has disappointed in six tries thus far. Wisely skipped Saratoga, prepped in a training flat at Shawan and returns to the scene of her best stateside effort when she finished within seven lengths of Kisser N Run last fall. Would be a surprise.