The season includes 18 stops and runs through Saturday, Nov. 29, with the season finale at Palm Beach, Fla. New stops on the circuit include Kentucky Downs, Monmouth Park, and Palm Beach. As usual, the Far Hills Races top the list with $550,000 in total purses spread over six races, including the country’s richest jump race, the $250,000 Grand National, Oct. 18 in Far Hills, N.J.
“We are excited about the fall racing opportunities including the return of Kentucky Downs, Monmouth Park, and Palm Beach to the NSA calendar,” said Bill Gallo, the NSA director of racing. “The additions are a sign of growth and help improve steeplechasing’s position within Thoroughbred racing.”
In 1990, Kentucky Downs (then called Dueling Grounds) hosted the richest steeplechase run in North America with the $750,000 Dueling Grounds International Hurdle. The track last hosted jump racing in 2000 and comes back this year with two races -- the $50,000 Belle Meade Plantation Stakes and a $25,000 maiden. The European-style turf course is ideally suited to steeplechase racing, which will share the Sept. 13 card with the Kentucky Cup Turf Festival.
The Belle Meade Plantation, a restricted stakes honoring Nashville’s legendary stud farm of the 1800s, lured 13 nominations including 2008 stakes winner Four Schools, 2006 stakes winner Quem Se Atreve, multiple winner Mark The Shark, and top young horses Class Shadow, Classy Brute, and Red Letter Day. Entries close Tuesday, Sept. 9.
The season’s opening weekend also includes a stop at Colonial Downs for two races Sept. 14. In a rarity, the jump races share the day with Standardbred racing.
On Sept. 20, steeplechasing returns to Monmouth Park for the first time since 2004, and offers a key prep for Far Hills with the $75,000 Monmouth County Hunt Novice Stakes. Named after the Monmouth County Hunt Races, an NSA fixture for 65 years in nearby Red Bank, N.J., before closing after the 1995 running, the stakes could be the start of an annual fall visit to Monmouth.
Monmouth Park hosted jump racing for decades including the Midsummer Hurdle Handicap, which counts among its winners such standouts as Zaccio, Life’s Illusion, Gran Kan, Tuscalee, and King Commander.
A day after Monmouth, steeplechasing goes north to Belmont Park for the second running of the Lonesome Glory Stakes (NSAI) – the final prep for the Grand National at Far Hills four weeks later. In 2007, Good Night Shirt won the Lonesome Glory en route to the Eclipse Award as champion steeplechaser.
The NSA’s traditional schedule of one-day race meets begins Sept. 27 with the Shawan Downs Races in Hunt Valley, Md. The racing continues over the next five weekends through Nov. 2. After a one-weekend break Nov. 8-9, the Colonial Cup Races offer a key stop for championship-level horses Nov. 16 in Camden, S.C. That day includes the $150,000 Colonial Cup (NSA-I), which was won by Good Night Shirt in 2007.
The season gets a new ending with Palm Beach on Saturday, Nov. 29. Part of the NSA circuit in 1980 and 1981, the meet returns to the Palm Beach Polo Club for a five-race program worth $200,000 in total purses.
Fall Grade I Steeplechase Stakes
Sept. 21 $150,000 Lonesome Glory Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.
Oct. 18 $250,000 Grand National Far Hills, N.J.
Oct. 18 $100,000 Foxbrook Novice Far Hills, N.J.
Nov. 1 $100,000 U.S. Champ. Novice Callaway Gardens, Ga.
Nov. 16 $150,000 Colonial Cup Camden, S.C.
Nov. 29 $100,000 Palm Beach Palm Beach, Fla.
Click here to see the full schedule.