This is Horse Racing
Despite the absence of several marquee names that include two notable defending champs – or perhaps because of those very defections – pre-entries for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships were as strong as ever for North American racing’s signature event next week at Santa Anita Park.
There is a rare peace to a racehorse loose in a paddock. He’s relaxed, and can choose to do what he wants. He can eat grass, scuff at dirt, watch, take note. He’s fenced, in but free.
Major contenders for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are dropping out almost as fast as the days are dwindling until the 2014 edition next weekend at Santa Anita Park.
Eddie Graham and Jody Petty have taken plenty of walks like this in their lives with horses – coming in from the gallop or heading back to the barn from the track.
A day at the races, or days at the races. Saturday was one day but it felt like far more as Thoroughbreds went to work on big days at Laurel Park, Far Hills, Belmont Park, Charles Town, Keeneland and pretty much anywhere else you wanted to look on a sunny, breezy October day.
Today is the day. The 94th running of the Far Hills Steeplechase.
Racetracks East of the Mississippi are the place to be this weekend with restricted or state-bred action at Belmont Park, Laurel Park and Charles Town Races leading the way.
As the sun fades on another epic day at the Far Hills Steeplechase, six horses line up in the finale, the New Jersey Hunt Cup. Lacking quantity, there is quality. The $50,000 stakes attracted the winners of this year’s Virginia Gold Cup and Mason Houghland timber stakes, the winner of the 2012 New Jersey Hunt Cup and three others looking for their breakout moments.
The Far Hills Races in New Jersey annually bring together the best of the best in American jump racing and 2014 is no exception.
Barn 42 at Belmont Park will be bustling with activity and few people – riders, trainers, racing officials and heck, even fans, mutuel clerks and outriders – figure to be as busy as Rick Schosberg during Saturday’s Empire Showcase card.
Divine Fortune is doing the head shake. Part twitch, part habit and all “Hey look at me!” the 11-year-old cranks his head all the way to the left – while walking straight ahead – holds it for a beat, then zips it back in one, swift pull. Then he goes back to walking. Then he does it all again. And again. And again.
How good is the Far Hills race committee? It puts up an extra just in case the 3-year-old stakes doesn’t go. Well, the 3-year-old race goes and they use the extra – a cool $50,000 purse offered to seven allowance horses. Leading trainer Jack Fisher entered four of the seven, he should write Far Hills’ Guy Torsilieri a thank you note.
The Grand National. It’s not Aintree, but the name does conjure images of all-time greats, history, a gold trophy, big names, big money and big pressure. That’s all here for this year’s renewal, the fourth race of seven on the Far Hills card Saturday. The $250,000 stakes attracted eight entrants, including the main players in the 2014 open stakes division – though a few choose to wait for next weekend’s Zeke Ferguson.
The second at Far Hills Saturday is a $30,000 maiden hurdle with 10 in the field. All but two make their first or second starts over jumps, which adds big question marks to an already interesting race. The purse is highest for a maiden hurdle this year
Many of the country’s state-bred breeding programs put on a standalone day of racing to put the spotlight on the state’s product. A handful might put on two. The very rare few feature three.
Nine hurdlers square off in the Foxbrook, the richest novice stakes of the year. Eclectic? A New Zealand-bred 8-year-old, a Chester Cup winner, a Florida-bred son of Holy Bull and three homebreds. Favoritism lies squarely on three-time winner Address Unknown for Irv Naylor, Cyril Murphy and Ross Geraghty.
The Peapack opens the star-studded Far Hills card. Nine fillies and mares of varying experience and ability meet the starter’s flag for the 1 o’clock opener. Clarke Ohrstrom’s Kisser N Run seeks her third consecutive victory in the $75,000 stakes.
It’s raining again in mid-October, which means all the questions start arise with regard to the annual Far Hills Races in New Jersey. American jump racing’s biggest day comes around again Saturday with seven races, $580,000 in purses and plenty of questions. How soft will the turf be? Will Demonstrative run? What trainer will have a big day? Is this where somebody takes a stranglehold on the jockeys’ race? Can Divine Fortune find his May form? Who’s the best novice? Will the vodka ice flumes be back? How about the accordion player in the cow costume?
Veteran Eighttofasttocatch seeks his third victory in the Maryland Million Classic Saturday. Trained by Tim Keefe, the 8-year-old owns 15 wins since making his debut in a 6-furlong maiden at Laurel Park in Oct. 2008. With a victory, the son of leading Maryland Million sire Not For Love would surpass the $1 million mark. Owned by Sylvia and her late husband Arnold Heft, Eighttofasttocatch
Thisishorseracing’s Sean Clancy caught up with trainer Tim Keefe for 30 (or so) questions – some pertinent, some inane. Goats and gallops, stalls and stops…this is Eighttofasttocatch.
Things are starting to sound like a broken record in many parts of the country these days. It sounds a little something like this, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”