The 2 5/8-mile race competed over 14 national fences - formerly called the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase - will include $100,000 in Breeders' Cup funds this year, an increase of $25,000 from last year. The Far Hills Races has also increased its purse contribution from $125,000 to $150,000, maintaining the race's position as the richest in American steeplechase racing.
In a subtle change, the race's name returns the American Grand National to activity. Dormant since the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase was brought back in 2000, the race dates to 1899 and was long the premier stakes in U.S. jump racing. Past winners include 11 of the 14 steeplechasers inducted into Thoroughbred Racing's Hall of Fame – Flatterer, Zaccio, Café Prince, Bon Nouvel, Neji, Oedipus, Elkridge, Bushranger, Battleship, Jolly Roger, and Good And Plenty. Over the years, the Grand National has been run at Belmont Park, Saratoga, and Morris Park in addition to steeplechase meets at Fair Hill, Md. and Charlottesville, Va. From 1987-99, the race was held at Far Hills (including the 1994-99 runnings as the Breeders' Cup Grand National).
"When we brought the Breeders' Cup back in 2000, we put the Grand National on the shelf because the Breeders' Cup name carries so much importance," said Guy Torsilieri, co-chairman of Far Hills and NSA treasurer. "But the Grand National is one of the oldest and most important races in steeplechasing, and it looked like it might not come back. It deserves to be honored, and we want to carry on the tradition while building on the history and the relationship with the Breeders' Cup. This is a great compromise - everyone wins."
Breeders' Cup-nominated horses will compete for the full $250,000 purse, while horses not nominated to the Breeders' Cup will be racing for $150,000. As in all Breeders' Cup Stakes program races, the Breeders' Cup Grand National includes awards to foal and stallion nominators of the top three finishers.
"The steeplechase constituency is important to Breeders' Cup Limited," said Damon Thayer, vice president of Breeders' Cup event management.
"So many people active in steeplechasing are also active in flat racing. It's important for Breeders' Cup to have a presence."
A replay of the Breeders' Cup Grand National will be shown Nov. 2 on ESPN2 "Wire to Wire at the Breeders' Cup" from 2-3 p.m. ET.
McDynamo, a Kentucky-bred son of Dynaformer, has won the last three Breeders' Cup Steeplechases and will try to make it four in a row this year. Other contenders include 2004 steeplechase champion Hirapour and 2006 grade I winner Mixed Up. McDynamo won a key prep for the Breeders' Cup Grand National, capturing the $75,000 Somerset Medical Center Stakes Sept. 29 at The Meadowlands.