10/20/2012 4:45PM

Steeplechase: Pierrot Lunaire rallies to take Grand National


FAR HILLS, N.J. – Fluke? No. Pierrot Lunaire repeated his winning effort at Belmont Park last month to win the $250,000 Grand National hurdle stakes at the Far Hills Races on Saturday.

Trained by Blythe Miller Davies, Pierrot Lunaire went after pacesetter Divine Fortune exiting the final turn, flew the last fence, and rallied through the stretch to win by three-quarters of a length in 5:40 for 2 5/8 miles over soft turf. Royal Bonsai stayed on for third. Slip Away and Spy In the Sky were late scratches.

Bernie Dalton rode Pierrot Lunaire, who ended a victory drought of more than three years when he won the Lonesome Glory at Belmont on Sept. 27.

“Can he do it again? That’s what everyone wanted to know,” said Dalton. "You want him to show up twice and he did. He just traveled and jumped, did everything I wanted him to do, perfect trip the whole way around on the inside.”

Divine Fortune controlled the pace from the outset, and nearly stole it when he kicked away on the final turn as Demonstrative, Royal Bonsai, Charminster, and Pierrot Lunaire tried to launch closing bids.

“On the turn, I looked up and said ‘I’ll get that horse’ and then for one little second I didn’t think I was going to get him,” said Dalton. “I gave my horse a slap and I felt like if jumped the last well I’d get him. He really dug in and ran on for me when I needed him.”

Bred in Kentucky by Skymarc Farm and owned by Mary Ann Houghland, Pierrot Lunaire came into the race looking for a spot in the steeplechase championship discussion and earned it. An 8-year-old son of War Chant, Pierrot Lunaire raced over jumps in England with Paul Nicholls, but was re-imported by Houghland’s late husband Calvin in 2009 and won his debut over champion Good Night Shirt in the Grade 1 Iroquois.

Pierrot Lunaire lost his next nine starts over parts of three seasons before returning to form this fall.

The only dual Grade 1 steeplechase winner this year heads to the Colonial Cup and an expected match with Spy in the Sky, Slip Away, and Demonstrative at Camden, S.C. on Nov. 17.

Notes: Far Hills again hosted a crowd estimated at 40,000 for the six-race card worth $500,000. Other winners were former Grade 2 turf stakes performer Dahoud in a maiden hurdle, Irish-bred 3-year-old Top Man Michael, Fog Island in the novice hurdle stakes, Kisser N Run in the filly and mare stakes, and Straight To It in the timber stakes.