Not surprisingly, the nation’s richest jump event has had an outsized influence on who’s earned the Eclipse Award title at season’s end. All six champions since 2011 have claimed victory in the Grand National (G1), contested at Far Hills, New Jersey.
All the Way Jose is the only one of the four prior Grade 1 winners of the season competing in Saturday’s renewal, and can enhance his candidacy for the division title with a win in the 2 5/8-mile hurdle, which carries a record purse of $400,000.
Losing his rider after hitting a fence in the A.P. Smithwick (G1) in late July, All the Way Jose next finished third to Diplomat in the New York Turf Writers Cup (G1), but landed the September 21 Lonesome Glory (G1) at Belmont by 1 1/4 lengths over Modem, unluckily second in all three of those races following his importation.
Jamarjo enters off a dominating win in the National Hunt Cup (G3), while Moscato comes in hot off a pair of novice stakes victories in New York. The latter was last defeated by Show Court, who did so in the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser at Saratoga, but was subsequently a well-beaten sixth in the New York Turf Writers Cup.
Former jockey Joseph O’Brien, son of Aidan O’Brien, has entered Katnap, who placed in stakes company at the Grand National meeting at Aintree last April. The other horse making his U.S. debut is Hammersly Lake, first or second in each of his last five starts.
The field is rounded out by Casino Markets, an improved fourth in the Lonesome Glory in his second U.S. appearance, and the Grade 1 veteran Mr. Hot Stuff.
While wagering on the Grand National card was legislatively legalized last year, its implementation has reportedly been delayed until 2018. A crowd of more than 35,000 is expected on Saturday, with first post at 1 p.m. (EDT). Live streaming video can be found at farhillsrace.org.