Robbie Power returns Jury Duty to be unsaddled after winning the Grand National at Far Hills, New Jersey.
By John Manley
Jury Duty had just pulled off a popular three-length victory in the $450,000 Grand National at Far Hills, New Jersey on Saturday when the tables were turned and the 7-year-old Irish-bred gelding from Gordon Elliott’s yard in Longwood, Co. Meath ended up under judgment for perhaps taking the lane away from fellow raider Tornado Watch. The latter, from the yard of Emmet Mullins, was second to finish, his rally hampered by a bad jump over the last of 16 fences. Rider David Mullins chimed in with a foul claim, but after analysis Jury Duty’s victory was affirmed.
The race, which drew three shippers from Ireland and two from England, as well as Dawalan, the 2015 winner of this race, went off under sunny skies in crisp weather in New Jersey horse country before a crowd estimated at 35,000.
Zanjabeel, which would have contended with Jury Duty for favoritism, was withdrawn from consideration after he suffered a minor tendon tear, leaving jockey Ross Geraghty without a mount in his quest for a fourth victory in this race.
Clarcam, another Elliott trainee, got involved early and took the lead after the fourth jump. Clarcam and Jack Kennedy maintained that advantage until the eighth fence, when Jaleo moved strongly to the fore.
Jaleo continued to lead until the field approached the hill that led to the wire. He had Jury Duty and Tornado Watch as well as others bearing down on him and could no longer withstand the pressure.
Jury Duty, owned by the Sideways Syndicate and ridden by Robbie Power in his first visit to this venue, assumed the lead with a quarter-mile to go and drew off to a convincing score. Tornado Watch, which tried to go inside of the winner approaching the final jump, veered to the outside before his leap, after which he had only to scamper on home to get second place by 10 lengths. All the Way Jose was third in this race for the second straight year, with Jaleo checking in fifth. Clarcam and Dawalan gave up the chase in the straight when the outcome was obvious.
The race featured pari-mutuel wagering for the first time in its storied history. Jury Duty, the favorite, paid $4.60 to win, $5.40 to place and $4.00 to show and set off a $44.00 exacta with Tornado Watch.
Jury Duty had been winless since he and Power teamed up at Punchestown last November. Since then, his form has featured efforts that were good but not good enough. Among those was a third-place finish to stablemate Clarcam at Galway in August.
“Unbelievable,” said Elliott upon winning his first American Grade 1 race. “I was nervous there because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said in reference to the stewards’ postrace conclave. “This is very special.”
“I knew if he put his best foot forward, he’d be the one to beat,” Power said. “The first three or four jumps, I was not so sure, but he worked his way into it.”
Geraghty had a small hand in Jury Duty’s victory, schooling the gelding over the ground on Friday morning and imparting a bit of his course knowledge to Power, who he’s known since their boyhood days in County Meath. Still, he described Zanjabeel’s withdrawal as “hard.”
The afternoon wasn’t without a reward for Geraghty, who won the second division of the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, which offered a $125,000 purse, aboard Rosbrian Farm’s Detroit Blues. Geraghty had the 8-year-old gelding in stalking mode throughout the 20 furlongs over yielding turf, although they gave up ground coming out of several of the jumps. Yet, there they were surging late in sight of the wire to get up by one-half length over Gibralfaro and Sean McDermott.
“Ross gave him a beautiful ride,” said Ricky Hendriks, trainer of Detroit Blues.
“I knew we’d get there,” Geraghty said of the all-out rally required of his mount.
Geraghty missed sweeping both halves of the Foxbrook when Bernie Dalton pulled a minor shocker aboard Irish-bred Belisarius, trained by his wife Kate. The 7-year-old gelding was marking time in the claiming ranks in California last year before he was introduced to life over hurdles this year by the Daltons. He broke his maiden at Monmouth Park two months ago, after which he was pointed for this race.
Surprising Soul, ridden by Geraghty, appeared to have command over his field until Dalton cruised past on Belisarius in the final turn. The winner drew off to score by six lengths with Surprising Soul holding for the place. Belisarius paid $27.40 to win and keyed an $88.00 exacta.
Each of the seven races was won by an Irish jockey, with McDermott taking two. Willie McCarthy and Kennedy were also victorious on the afternoon.
NEXT GENERATION KNACK
Charles Lynch is an apple that hasn't fallen far from the tree. Cathal Lynch's son sent out C & A Stables' Wait for Dark to win Laurel's fourth race, a maiden claiming sprint on the main track, on Thursday. The winner is a 2-year-old gelding making his first career start, a situation that the senior Lynch has prospered with over the years. Trevor McCarthy had Wait for Dark battling early, after which they led by two lengths into the stretch. They were all out to hold off the Jerry O'Dwyer-trained Marco Island by a nose at the wire. Wait for Dark paid $27.40 to win and keyed a $192.40 exacta. As for Marco Island, he now resides in the barn of Mark Reid, who ponied up the $40,000 claiming fee.
Elsewhere in the Lynch family, Fergal Lynch knocked out a couple of two-win days in the saddle. He journeyed up to Parx for the Monday card and was victorious with both his mounts, the first of which was Global Citizen ($4.20 to win) for Horacio de Paz in the fourth race, followed by Direct Order ($7.00) for Jason Servis in the sixth.
On Thursday, Lynch was back in Maryland for the card at Laurel, where he posed for photos aboard Havana Affair ($9.40) for Nick Zito after the first race and on Eye of the Wildcat ($5.80) for Timothy Keefe after the eighth race.
A couple members of the far-flung Eoin Harty string broke their maidens last week, starting with Godolphin's Gone to Austin in the sixth race at Mountaineer, a maiden special weight mile on the main track, on Wednesday. The 3-year-old filly was of no account in her turf debut at Delaware Park prior to this, but brought back against a soft crew on the loam in West Virginia she ran back to her more competitive outings. Luis Quinones didn't let her get too far off the pace and when he pushed the button the race was as good as over. The filly won by almost eight lengths and returned $2.20 across. She was regarded as such a sure thing that the public pumped more than twice as much money ($92,451) into the straight pools as they did into any of the eight other races that evening.
Peter Johnson's Prima Valentina wasn't quite as well-fancied as Gone to Austin, but the 2-year-old homebred filly was favored to win Thursday's fifth race, a maiden special weight mile on the lawn, at Hawthorne and Sophie Doyle closed a gap late to get her up by a neck. She ran with Lasix for the first time in this, her third career attempt. The win price was $6.00.