Steeplechase Handicapping: Here are your tips

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Bleary-eyed yet? The TIHR crew is. Been a bit busy around here with 23 articles, photo galleries and blog entries posted on the site since Monday. Not counting this one, and probably a few more by Saturday.

That’s what happens when the Maryland Million, Far Hills and International Gold Cup (and we’re ignoring, unwillingly, some other big events) all happen on the same weekend. Enjoy the flood, and sorry it’s not deeper. For the moment, we’re handicapping stellar steeplechase cards at the Far Hills Races and International Gold Cup meets. There’s pari-mutuel betting at the latter (and plenty of chalkboards at the former) so these might actually help you make some money this week. Of course, they’re two tough cards.

Joe (whose 19-year streak of attending Far Hills ends Saturday to attend the Million) leads the way with 38 wins, followed by Sean (who is Far Hills-bound) with 34 and Tom (who will be at Keeneland stretching his hamstrings from the Bourbon Chase ultra-relay run) with 31. It’s been a quiet fall for the group, despite a big day at Virginia Fall two weeks ago. Genesee’s two races last week yielded ZERO winners for anyone though Joe had the distinction of watching both top choices finish second.

Far Hills Races. Post time 1 p.m. Seven races worth $500,000 and showcasing the best American jump racing of the year. Turf should be firm (ish) for a change but it’s still a demanding course that rewards quality. See race-by-race closer looks on the site for some detailed analysis. Far Hills runs for the first time with strict alcohol policies in the parking lots and elsewhere on the property. Sounded like a shocking development at first, but should make for safer environment for all (fans ran on the course during a race last year…). Enjoy the spectacle, have a good time, but be safe out there.

First Race. $75,000 Peapack for fillies and mares. Big field, wide open like always.

  • Joe: The Grey Express, Well Fashioned, Kisser N Run.
  • Sean: Bittersweetheart, Well Fashioned, Kisser N Run.
  • Tom: Take Her Tothe Top, The Grey Express, Maya Charli.

Second Race. $25,000 maiden hurdle. Wide open, like always. West Is Best is scratched.

  • Joe: Wait Outside, Tropic Sea, Canaveral.
  • Sean: Wait Outside, Wildcatter, Tropic Sea.
  • Tom: Wildcatter, Wait Outside, Canaveral.

Third Race. $75,000 Foxbrook Novice. Race was divided thanks to overflow entries. This is tougher half, we think.

  • Joe: Staying On, Kingdom, Apse.
  • Sean: Apse, Staying On, Bluegrass Summer.
  • Tom: Bluegrass Summer, Apse, Kingdom.

Fourth Race. $75,000 Foxbrook Novice. Another good group.

  • Joe: Powerofone, Alburj, Sacred Soul.
  • Sean: Powerofone, Royal Bonsai, Sacred Soul.
  • Tom: Powerofone, Royal Bonsai, Alburj.

Fifth Race. $250,000 Grand National. Best field for a Grade 1 all year. Defending champion Pierrot Lunaire, Demonstrative (who gets his turf), Gustavian off the win, Italian Wedding off three good efforts, Divine Fortune back for more, Martini Brother and Barnstorming stepping up, Hunt Ball on a course he’ll like, tough-as-Kevlar veterans All Together, Spy In The Sky and Left Unsaid…Throw a dart.

  • Joe: Demonstrative, Gustavian, Italian Wedding.
  • Sean: Demonstrative, Gustavian, Divine Fortune.
  • Tom: Italian Wedding, Demonstrative, All Together.

Sixth Race. $25,000 Gladstone hurdle stakes for 3-year-olds. Rematch from Virginia Fall for five of the 10. Beware second-timer Mr. Lickety, Sheppard shipper All The Way Jose and pretty much everybody.

  • Joe: Cry Vengeance, Run To Class, Mr. Lickety.
  • Sean: Run To Class, Cry Vengeance, Class Cherokee.
  • Tom: All the Way Jose, Run to Class, Schoodic.

Seventh Race. $25,000 allowance timber in a change of conditions from an open stakes. Makes a nice race.

  • Joe: Cornhusker, Port Morsbey, Brave Prospect.
  • Sean: Cornhusker, Brave Prospect, Port Morsbey.
  • Tom: Brave Prospect, Cornhusker, Port Morsbey.


International Gold Cup offers betting, solid card in Virginia.

Pari-mutuel wagering comes back to Great Meadow in Virginia after a successful debut in May. Post time is 1 p.m., but get there early to beat the traffic and to give yourself time to study. The meet offers an internal wi-fi system where fans can establish credit and bet from their smartphones via FastBet Mobile, or at traditional cash windows. For more, see FastBet explanation from Virginia Thoroughbred Association.

First Race. $15,000 maiden hurdle. King Ting is 8-5 off second at Shawan in a field of six while Alfarabi gets off the bench after two so-so finishes in spring.

  • Joe: Alfarabi, King Ting, Fast Tempo.
  • Sean: Awesome Pearl, Alfarabi, King Ting.
  • Tom: King Ting, Alfarabi, Awesome Pearl.

Second Race. $20,000 Steeplethon over varied course. Trip matters here the way it matters driving to Disney. On The Corner seeks his third in a row while Swimming River looks to turn back the clock (again). 

  • Joe: On The Corner, Swimming River, Saluda Sam.
  • Sean: On The Corner, Swimming River, Schoolhouse Woods.
  • Tom: On the Corner, Saluda Sam, Swimming River.

Third Race. $25,000 allowance hurdle with a good group of nine inlcuding stakes-placed Wantan, Saint Dynaformer, Forgotten Man and Orchestra Leader.

  • Joe: Wantan, Saint Dynaformer, Critical Point.
  • Sean: Wantan, Critical Point, Forgotten Man.
  • Tom: Wantan, Critical Point, Forgotten Man.

Fourth Race. $15,000 maiden hurdle with six. Lea Von is 9-5 for Doug Fout after finishing second at Colonial Downs in June. Tempt Me Alex was also in that race and prepped for this at Shawan.

  • Joe: Annawon, Lea Von, Tempt Me Alex.
  • Sean: Lea Von, Tempt Me Alex, Annawon.
  • Tom: Annawon, Tempt Me Alex, Lea Von.

Fifth Race. $50,000 International Gold Cup timber stakes. The feature drew a great field, after smart decision by Far Hills to make its timber an allowance. Rematch between Shawan 1-2-3 Tax Ruling, Straight To It, Aero.

  • Joe: Straight To It, Tax Ruling, Aero.
  • Sean: Tax Ruling, Straight To It, Aero.
  • Tom: Straight to It, Tax Ruling, Aero.

Sixth Race. $15,000 Virginia-bred flat with horses coming from all sources and all direction. Hear The Word makes first start since Preakness time at Pimlico (when ridden by Gary Stevens).

  • Joe: Hear The Word, Prized Pupil, Prima Facie.
  • Sean: Hear The Word, Prima Facie, Complete Dyno.
  • Tom: Hear the Word, Prized Pupil, Wahoo.