Courtesy National Steeplechase Association
A few years ago, Jonathan Sheppard noticed that he was approaching his 1,000th career steeplechase victory, although he did not believe that he would reach that milestone before 2011. But a spectacular season in 2010 placed him at that milestone mark on Sept. 25 when he saddled Hudson River Stables’ Arcadius to win the $100,000 Helen Haskell Sampson Stakes (Gr. 1) at Monmouth Park.
Sheppard, 69, had reached the brink of his 1,000th victory over fences earlier in the afternoon, when Port Mosebey won a$25,000 maiden special weight race for the Racing Hall of Fame trainer’s longtime client Augustin Stables, the racing and breeding operation of George Strawbridge Jr.
The British-born horseman won his first race as a trainer with Redmond C. Stewart Jr.’s Haffaday at My Lady’s Manor in 1966.
The Helen Sampson victory was Sheppard’s 21st of the year, and he is winning at a lights-out 31% rate. From 68 starts, his stable has finished in the money in two-thirds of their races.
He and another longtime client, Bill Pape, had an spectacular Saratoga Race Course meet, where they won four of five races and finished second in the fifth. Sheppard also finished first and second in three of those victories, including Pape’s Sermon of Love and Arcadius in the $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) and Pape’s Divine Fortune and Arcadius in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 2).
Sheppard’s earnings for the year through Sept. 25 totaled $640,130, which puts him within shouting range of his best year ever, $929,375 in 1992. Still ahead on the schedule are two rich Grade 1 races, the $250,000 Grand National at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 23 and the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) at Camden, S.C., on Nov. 13.
Last year, he claimed his 11th steeplechase Eclipse Award with Bill Pape’s Mixed Up, winner of the A. P. Smithwick (Gr. 1) and Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). He also won his second flat Eclipse Award with Augustin’s Informed Decision (female sprinter), after Augustin’s Forever Together (turf female) in 2008. His other six steeplechase champions are Athenian Idol, Cafe Prince, Martie’s Anger, Flatterer, Jimmy Lorenzo and Highland Bud. Flatterer was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1994, four years after Sheppard.