The 2018 Grand National Hurdle is Expected to be Another International Affair

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America’s richest steeplechase was a truly international affair in 2017 and a similarly diverse field is expected once again in October. The contest, which is staged at Far Hills, attracted five competitors from overseas and once again drew a bumper crowd who enjoyed witnessing five

The Irish Field via twitter

high-quality stakes races on the card. The European national hunt season will be gathering momentum by the time this year’s contest arrives and many more UK and Irish trainers are expected to send their charges’ to New Jersey in a bid to get their hands on a share of the $800,000 purse.

Although very few overseas trainers have been able to land the prize in recent years, Irish jockey Ruby Walsh has enjoyed success in the contest. He rode Rawnaq to victory in 2016 and the Irish-bred charge has quickly established itself as one of the leading US steeplechasers and had previously enjoyed success in the Grade 3 Temple Gwathmey.

In 2017, trainers Emma Lavelle, Charlie Longsden and Willie Mullins all originally declared runners in the race and that trend is likely to continue with more UK and Irish-based trainers utilising the option to race in the US. Joseph O’Brien is relatively new to the national hunt scene in Europe but the impressive trainer sent over the French-bred Katnap last year and he picked up sixth place in the contest. He has pledged to “not stop trying” in his quest for glory in America and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another couple of his stable stars pitch up at the New Jersey hunt in October 2018. His inconsistent ten-year-old had previously enjoyed success over the Grand National fences at Aintree but wasn’t able to replicate that performance at Far Hills.

Champion series via Twitter

O’Brien has enjoyed success with Edwulf this season with the JP-McManus owned horse taking the inaugural Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival but he will not be participating in the Randox Health Grand National on April 14th. The nine-year-old isn’t the only runner to have pulled out of the energy-sapping steeplechase event with Definitly Red also being withdrawn. Edwulf competed at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival alongside Tiger Roll, who has Grand National best odds of 14/1 with Betfair and is vying for favouritism alongside Anibale Fly, Total Recall and Blaklion.

Willie Mullins has a number of runners in the UK Grand National and has enjoyed a profitable 2018 so far. Balleycasey was declared for the US Grand National Hurdle in 2017 but the Irish trainer opted not to run his 11-year old at the meeting. He has recently sent runners to France and Australia and is believed to be keen on showcasing some of his stable string at Far Hills this year.

Steeplechasing in the USA has a rich and varied history and this Grade 1 event originally dates back to 1896. The number of International entries has slowly increased over the past couple of years and more overseas competitors is a terrific way of enhancing the reputation of this contest across Europe. Expect a handful of UK and Irish trainers to target the October race once again in 2018 as they attempt to break the historical home dominance in this event.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 14-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He recently won a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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