An invasion of overseas runners will challenge many of America's best steeplechase horses in the Oct. 21 $400,000 Grand National Hurdle Stakes (NSA-G1), America's richest steeplechase race and the centerpiece of the Far Hills Races in central New Jersey.
In all, a field of eight is expected for the 2 5/8-mile Grand National over National Fences, and three entrants are based overseas.
The American-based contingent matches up well against the invaders, and coming off a major breakout victory is Buttonwood Farm's All the Way Jose, who burst away from his opponents to win Belmont Park's Lonesome Glory Handicap (NSA-G1) by 1 1/4 lengths Sept. 21.
Darren Nagle, who currently leads the NSA jockey standings, again will be in the saddle on All the Way Jose.
Robert A. Kinsley's Modem, who began racing in the United States this summer, will be trying to find the winner's circle after three straight second-place finishes in NSA grade 1 races. In addition to his runner-up finish in the Lonesome Glory, the British-bred gelding was second in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase Handicap and the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap, both at Saratoga Race Course. Trainer Elizabeth Voss named Jack Doyle to ride.
Jack Fisher, all but assured of his sixth straight trainer title by wins and his fourth straight by purses, entered Bruton Street-US's Moscato, who zoomed to the top of the earnings table in his first year of racing over fences.
On the same Belmont program as the Lonesome Glory, the British-bred gelding roared away to a 3 1/2-length victory in the William Entenmann Memorial Hurdle Stakes. Sean McDermott has the mount.
A member of the overseas contingent is Mighty Acorn Stables' Casino Markets, who is trained in England by Emma Lavelle. Casino Markets has tested the American market twice, finishing eighth in the New York Turf Writers Cup and a much-improved fourth in the Lonesome Glory, beaten 2 1/2 lengths. Leighton Aspell will ride.
Owner Robert Aplin and trainer Charlie Longsdon visited Far Hills last year and took home third-place money in the Grand National with Irish-bred Sharp Rise. They are returning with French-bred contender Hammersly Lake, who won three times this year, most recently in the Sodexo Prestige Venues and Events Killiecrankie Handicap Chase at Perth Hunt Sept. 11. Brian Hughes, who rode Sharp Rise last year, has the mount.
Joseph O'Brien, a rising star on the international racing scene, entered Katnap, a 10-year-old French-bred who finished second in Aintree's Randox Health Topham Steeplechase in April. The trainer, son of renowned Coolmore trainer Aidan O'Brien, was a two-time champion flat jockey in Ireland before beginning a training career that has had early successes. David Russell rides Katnap.
The 97th annual Far Hills Races, featuring five stakes races and a race-meet record of $800,000 in total purses, annually attracts a crowd approaching 40,000, which will be racing's largest North American crowd that day.