BUTLER, Md.--Mystic Strike, who slipped and fell on a turn in My Lady's Manor on April 10, leads a very competitive nine horse field in the $30,000, 3 mile Grand National Timber Stakes on Saturday, April 17.
Upland Partners' Mystic Strike, who is trained by Todd McKenna and will be ridden by Chris Gracie, has six wins from 13 starts over timber, including twice winning the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in 2019 and 2020 and My Lady's Manor in 2019.
This will be Mystic Strike's first trip to the Grand National, and he faces two horses that have started over the challenging course, among them Hill Tie, who finished third in the Allowance race there as well as fifth in the 2019 Stakes.
Owned by Sportsmans Hall and trained by Joe Davies, Hill Tie will be ridden by Teddy Davies, but he is also cross entered in the $15,000 Benjamin H. Murray Allowance race.
Hill Tie, who has run five times over timber, has one win, one second and one third and also has run in the Maryland Hunt Cup, in which he finished fifth in 2019.
FRANK A. BONSAL'S Stand Down (Ire), trained by Casey Pinkard Savin, will be ridden by Eddie Keating.
Stand Down has run 11 times over timber with three wins, including once in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in 2018 and also in the Allowance race at the Grand National, one second and two thirds.
Charlie Fenwick's Royal Ruse, trained by Sanna Neilson and to be ridden by her niece, Skylar McKenna, hasn't run in any stakes but has an exemplary record with four wins, including once in the Allowance at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup last year, two seconds and three thirds from 10 starts, and he has the very talented and canny jockey in McKenna.
If Royal Ruse handles the challenging Grand National course, he could easily be the winner.
Jack Fisher will saddle Mrs. S.K. Johnston's Hanno, who will be ridden by Hadden Frost.
Hanno has only run over timber four times, with two wins, but he didn't finish in last year's Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
He ran in hurdle races with only one win after racing in England, but Fisher's horses are always well trained, fit and dangerous.
Michael A. Smith's Le Chevalier, trained by Julie Gomena and to be ridden by McLane Hendriks. is a hard-knocking veteran, hitting the boards 14 times in 17 races over timber with three wins, eight seconds and three thirds.
Le Chevalier finished third in My Lady's Manor in 2017 but didn't finish in last year's Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Grand Manan, owned by Armata Stable, trained by Billy Meister and to be ridden by John Brophy, is another hard-knocking veteran, having 26 starts over timber with five wins, five seconds and four thirds.
Grand Manan finished second in the 2019 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup but also did not finish in last year's race.
Grand Manan's style of running is to go to the front immediately, and the question in the Grand National is can he stay in front for three miles.
Jeremy Batoff's Class Indian, trained by Willy Dowling, will be ridden by Justin Batoff, and he is the other horse to have started in the Grand National, but he didn't finish in 2019.
Class Indian has run over timber 20 times with three wins, one second and four thirds.
Jeffery G, owned by Irv Naylor and trained by Jason Cole will be ridden by Forrest Kelly.
Jeffery G has started 13 times over timber but has never won or placed second, with just one third in his resume.
With a field of mostly proven winners, up-and-coming horses and hard-knocking veterans, The Grand National looks like a very interesting race with any number of possible winners.