10/17/2008 11:00PM

Good Night Shirt looks unstoppable


After watching Good Night Shirt win the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park last month, his trainer, Jack Fisher, joked about how others might find a way to stop the 2007 Eclipse Award winner.

"Fall in front of him? Send a horse out there to stand at the start and block him? That would be about it," Fisher said after Good Night Shirt won his fourth consecutive Grade 1 stakes.

No one will try that Saturday, but they need a strategy to deal with Good Night Shirt. He towers over six rivals in the Grade 1, $250,000 American Grand National, which headlines the 88th annual Far Hills Races in Far Hills, N.J.

Worth $550,000, the six-race lineup is the richest on the National Steeplechase Association calendar. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern with the feature set to go at about 2:45 p.m.

A 7-year-old son of Concern owned by Harold Via Jr., Good Night Shirt leads all steeplechasers with $245,520 in earnings this year and holds the inside track to repeat as champion with Grade 1 scores in the Georgia Cup, Iroquois, and Lonesome Glory. The Grand National, the richest jump race in North America, comes four weeks after the Lonesome Glory, and Fisher expects another quality start from his Maryland-bred.

Good Night Shirt's last loss came in the 2007 Grand National when fourth behind now-retired superstar McDynamo.

"The biggest thing this year is that McDynamo isn't in there and it hasn't rained yet," said Fisher, comparing 2007 to 2008. [McDynamo] "loved that course and loved the soft ground, so it's tough to say if Good Night Shirt didn't like it or not. He made a big run at McDynamo up the hill and would have been second if he didn't try to win it. He's jumping better this year. He's matured, and that's been big. He's coming into the race in great shape, so we're ready to go."

Regular jockey Willie Dowling will be aboard Good Night Shirt, who can break the single-season earnings record of $314,163 - which he set last year - with a victory.

The 4-year-old upstart Be Certain may have the best chance against the favorite. Twice a winner this year, he wants every step of the 2 5/8 miles, has never finished worse than third over jumps, and gets an eight-pound concession in the weights. Still, he's eligible for the restricted novice category and has yet to face Good Night Shirt.

Best Attack finished third in last year's Grand National and was second behind Good Night Shirt in the Iroquois in May. The 7-year-old Best Attack prepped with a seventh in the Lonesome Glory.

Red Letter Day set the pace in the Lonesome Glory and settled for third, beaten just four lengths, at 33-1. Trained by Janet Elliot, he looms the pace threat again.

Dalucci makes his second American start after placing sixth in the Lonesome Glory for Irish trainer Charlie Swan. The 5-year-old Dalucci should be better for his time in the country and his second start over U.S. fences.

Orison threatened Good Night Shirt last fall, coming up a length short in the 2007 Lonesome Glory, but has struggled in five starts since. Trained by Doug Fout, the 6-year-old son Orison will be making his first start since May.

Fout also entered recent import Isti BeeI, who won two steeplechases this summer in Australia and moves up on soft ground.

Breeders' Cup no longer a sponsor

For the first time in more than 20 years, Saturday's race, which at different times has been known as the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase, Breeders' Cup Grand National, or just the Grand National, will be run without the sponsorship of the Breeders' Cup. The Breeders' Cup created the race in 1986 and funded its entire purse through 1993. From 1994 through 2007, Breeders' Cup continued to contribute to the purse of the race. Last year's $300,000 Grand National included up to $100,000 in Breeders' Cup enhancements ($63,000 in BC money was actually distributed).

* If you go to Far Hills - the day is a fundraiser for Somerset Medical Center in Somerville - get there early. The crowd reaches 50,000, even though there is no parimutuel wagering.

* The card also includes the Grade 1 Foxbrook for novice hurdlers. Among those in the field is Dreadnaught, a graded stakes winner on the flat.

* Five-time Grand National winner McDynamo will be honored in a pre-race ceremony.