BREEDERS' CUP NOTES
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FLAT TOP, NINEPINS HIGHLIGHT INTERNATIONAL CAST FOR OCT. 28 BREEDERS' CUP STEEPLECHASE
FAR HILLS, N.J - With a group of 22 nominations submitted Tuesday, a big field was assured for the renewal of the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase, to be run Saturday, October 28, at the Far Hills Race Meeting in Far Hills, New Jersey.
America's richest steeplechase race at $250,000, the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase highlights a six-race card at the 80th annual Far Hills Races. At 2 5/8-miles over 14 fences, the race tests the speed, stamina and jumping ability of the best Thoroughbred jumpers in the world.
"I'm very pleased with the nominations," said National Steeplechase Association Director of Racing Bill Gallo. "The numbers are good, and so is the quality. It's also good to see that 18 of the 22 horses are Breeders' Cup eligible. It shows that Breeders' Cup-nominated horses participate in steeplechasing."
Among the nominations are 10 Grade I stakes winners and 16 stakes winners including seven of the top 10 earners of the 2000 NSA season. Pre-entries close on Oct. 17, with entries closing Oct. 24. The field will be limited to 14 starters with preference to Breeders' Cup eligible horses and second preference to horses with the highest career earnings over hurdles.
Flat Top, a Grade I winner in his only start this year and the champion steeplechaser of 1998, headlines a stellar group. One of three horses nominated by trainer Janet Elliot, Flat Top won Keeneland's $188,700 Royal Chase in April after missing all of 1999 with a leg injury. The son of Alleged has won seven of 12 career steeplechase races and more than $354,000.
The second-biggest name on the list belongs to the venerable Ninepins. The 13-year-old led all U.S. jumpers in earnings last year with $199,000 and comes off a Grade I win at Saratoga in August. Ninepins, who finished ninth as the U.S. representative in Japan's $1.5 million Nakayama Grand Jump in April, will use Friday's $50,000 Zeke Ferguson Memorial at Colonial Downs as his final Breeders' Cup prep.
"If he's going to be competitive in the Breeders' Cup, he probably needs the run," said trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who nominated five horses. "I think it helps to keep a horse his age competitive." In his U.S. career, Hudson River Farm's Ninepins has earned more than $506,000 - second only to Rowdy Irishman among Breeders' Cup Steeplechase nominees.
A true rags to riches tale, Rowdy Irishman lost 17 consecutive flat races before being converted to steeplechasing. To date, the 11-year-old has earned more than $596,000 racing over fences - third on the all-time list. Two of his biggest career achievements - victories in the 1995 and 1997 Breeders' Cup Grand National - came over the Far Hills course.
Along with Flat Top, Elliot nominated consistent stakes performer Campanile. The 6-year-old won three graded events last year, and captured a Grade II at Saratoga in August. Owned by Greg Hawkins, the son of Lear Fan is second on the 2000 earnings list with a win, two seconds and a third in six starts.
In April, he was disqualified from a Grade I win for interference. If not for that disqualification, he would lead all U.S. steeplechasers in earnings. Third in his last start at Arlington International Racecourse Sept. 10, Campanile has been freshened with the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase in mind.
Elliot's third horse, Master McGrath, has not raced since November 1998, but the 13-year-old casts a lengthy shadow based on a reputation for gutsy front-running efforts. Master McGrath won the Grade I Carolina Cup in 1998, and has earned more than $311,000 in his career.
Spring 2000 star All Gong, first and second in two Grade I starts, returns to action for trainer Bruce Miller. The English-bred won the $100,000 Atlanta Cup and was second in the $100,000 Iroquois at Nashville, but has not run since the latter effort in May. Owned by Calvin Houghland, All Gong faces off with Ninepins at Colonial Downs Friday as a Breeders' Cup Steeplechase prep.
Australia is represented in the nominations by Logician, a winner of six races and more than $100,000 (U.S.) over fences. Trained by Anthony Noonan, the 9-year-old New Zealand-bred will fly to the U.S. with the United States Equestrian Team horses that were in Sydney for the Olympics.
The Breeders' Cup Steeplechase will be televised on a one-day delay as part of the "NTRA Racing to the Breeders' Cup" series' final installment, Oct. 29, on ESPN from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. In addition to the Steeplechase, the Breeders' Cup Special program previews the eight Championship day flat races to be held Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.
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