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Rosbrian Farm's Optimus Prime jumped to a dominant victory in the 2018 David L. "Zeke" Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) at the International Gold Cup. (Tod Marks photo)

Eclipse Award finalist Optimus Prime and a newcomer to Irv Naylor’s stable top the initial National Steeplechase Association ratings for the upcoming 2019 racing season, which kicks off March 23 with the Aiken Spring Steeplechase in South Carolina.

Third in the ratings is Scorpiancer, the 2017 Eclipse champion who did not race last year.

Owned by 2018 champion owner Rosbrian Farm, Optimus Prime arrived in the United States last May and was prepared by trainer Ricky Hendriks and his staff for a victory in Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) on Aug. 23.

Third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) behind stablemate and eventual Eclipse champion Zanjabeel, Optimus Prime came back with a dominant victory in the International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) on Oct. 27. The French-bred, now seven, was second in the Eclipse balloting behind overwhelming choice Zanjabeel, who is owned by Rosbrian and Meadow Run Farm.

Naylor’s newcomer is Bedrock, a British-bred who is now six. Formerly trained by Iain Jardine, he collected two farewell victories for his former owner, The Risk Takers Partnership, in Ireland. After an October win at Tipperary, he was victorious in a Down Royal hurdle on Nov. 2. In all, his earnings over hurdles exceed $130,000.

Optimus Prime and Bedrock were listed at 157 in the ratings prepared by the expert panel comprising Equibase chart caller Martin Chamberlin, racing official and announcer Will O’Keefe, and Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Editor Joe Clancy. Their work is overseen by NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr.

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CHASING IN FOCUS

Here’s to the winners!

The NSA honored the champions of 2018 in its annual awards ceremony and dinner at Baltimore's Maryland Club on Jan. 17. Here are the highlights.

<span>by Mahoney</span>

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SOME FACTS ABOUT JUMP RACING IN NORTH AMERICA

$5,998,500

NSA PURSES IN 2017

480 HORSES

RAN IN 2017

+1,000,000

SPECTATORS EACH YEAR

12 STATES

HOST STEEPLECHASE RACES
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