FAR HILLS, N.J. — Mr. Hot Stuff, Modem and All the Way Jose staged a hammer and tongs battle through the home stretch in the $400,000, Grade 1 Grand National Steeplechase, the signature event at the 97th Far Hills Race Meeting on Oct. 21.
When the “Official” sign was posted, two certainties emerged.
Mrs. S.K. Johnston, Jr.'s Mr. Hot Stuff was the winner by a nose.
Mr. Hot Stuff's trainer, Monkton, Md.'s Jack Fisher, was a record setting million dollar trainer.
However, the members of the National Turfwriters and Broadcasters Association and the National Throughbred Racing Association who vote for the “Steeplechaser-of-the-Year” Award have a problem on their hands.
Mr. Hot Stuff and Irish jockey Danny Mullins — who flew from Ireland to ride — were close to or on the lead for most of North America's richest 'chase.
As the field of six turned for the uphill run to the line, the three money horses were nose to nose. When they reached level ground inside the eighth pole, Mr. Hot Stuff made the lead with right handed encouragement from Mullins.
The photo showed Mr. Hot Stuff, an 11-year-old gelded son of Tiznow, the winner by a nose. Modem and Jack Doyle were second by a nose over All the Way Jose and Darren Nagle, the National Steeplechase Association leading rider with 14 wins.
When Peter McGiveney, the NSA's money manager, cuts the purse money checks, $240,000 will go into Jill Johnston's Chatanooga, Tenn. band account and Fisher will be credited with that much in statistical dollars in the race for the trainers' annual award.
With the Grand National in the books, Fisher has amassed $1,182,050 in purses breaking his 2008 mark of $1,156,907 with five racing weeks remaining before the annual NSA banquet.
After the trophy presentation, Mrs. Johnston was asked about running Mr. Hot Stuff at the advanced age of 11. “He likes what he does,” she said. “When he comes back to Tennessee every winter, he mopes around the pasture and looks sad. So, I send him back to Jack for another year.”
The voters for the Eclipse Award for 'Chaser of the Year had better like their chosen task.
With only five Grade 1 races on the NSA fixture card, five different horses have one win each.
Scorpiancer (out of training) won the Iroquois. Swansea Mile (not entered in the Grand National) won Saratoga's A.P. Smithwick Memorial two weeks before Diplomat (not entered) won the N.Y. Turf Writers Handicap. All the Way Jose, the winner of Belmont's Lonesome Glory was third in the Grand National by two noses.
When asked how he felt after winning The American Grand National, Mullins said, “To win the biggest race on the American stage is terrific. Maybe some American trainers can find some more horses for me to ride.”
'Here in America?' Danny. “Jockeys will go anywhere to ride good horses,” he said.
With the Far Hills Race Committee planning a $1 million purse for the American Grand National's centennial three years hence (if not sooner), Mullins said a purse like that “will get an Irish jockey to go to America, England, Ireland or anywhere in the world to ride a good horse.”
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