The National Steeplechase Association’s 2018 season has concluded, the wins and purse earnings have been tallied, and now the year’s champions are ready to be crowned.
The sport’s leading competitors will be honored Thursday, Jan. 17, at the annual awards dinner, to be held for a second consecutive year at the Maryland Club in Baltimore in conjunction with the Race Chairmen’s Meeting and an NSA Board of Directors meeting. The gala dinner is presented by the NSA and the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association.
The winner of the year’s Eclipse Award as North America’s champion steeplechase horse will be announced a week later, Jan. 24, at the annual Eclipse dinner at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
Topping the owner list by a wide margin was the Rosbrian Farm of Mandy and George Mahoney, which earned $712,050 from 54 starts.
The stable had 14 victories, and among them were two Grade 1 victories—the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois and Belmont Park’s $175,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap—by five-year-old Zanjabeel, who is owned by Rosbrian in partnership with Wendy and Ben Griswold’s Meadow Run Farm.
Trained by Ricky Hendriks, Zanjabeel will be a leading candidate for the Eclipse Award with earnings of $265,000. He also had two second-place finishes, in the $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and the $75,000 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2).
Leading the year’s earnings table was Jury Duty, who earned $270,000 with his 3 1/4-length victory in Far Hills’ $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), the year’s richest race. Owned by the Sideways Syndicate, Jury Duty was trained to his New Jersey victory by leading Irish horseman Gordon Elliott. As the year’s leading earner, Jury Duty will be awarded the Lonesome Glory Award in January.
Straylight Racing’s Invocation remained undefeated for the year when he scored a two-length victory over Eve Ledyard’s Go Get the Basil in the Steeplechase at Charleston’s featured $30,000 ratings handicap on Sunday. Apple Equipment’s Oskar Denarius finished third.
The South Carolina meet brought down the curtain on the 2018 National Steeplechase Association season and decided several annual championships.
Darren Nagle scored a five-length victory in the afternoon’s first race with Irv Naylor’s Moss Code to secure his second straight title as champion jockey by wins. With another strong fall season, Nagle had 17 victories for the year.
Jack Doyle, who led for much of the year, had been tied with Nagle going into the Charleston meet and finished second in the standings with 16 wins. Moss Code prevailed in the maiden claiming hurdle for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Jack Fisher went into the Charleston meet with a one-race lead in the trainer standings over Ricky Hendriks, and he went two up with a victory by Noble Stables’ Dynaformersrequest in a $30,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle. Willie McCarthy rode the Dynaformer gelding, who was Fisher’s 22nd winner of the year.
The 2018 steeplechase racing season concludes Sunday with the Steeplechase of Charleston at Stono Ferry, and two major championships will be at stake in its four hurdle races.
First post time will be 1 p.m. at the course in Hollywood, S.C. In addition to the four hurdle races, which offer $100,000 in purses, the program will conclude with a flat race over the Stono Ferry course.
The titles on the line are champion trainer and champion jockey, both by wins. Jack Fisher, the National Steeplechase Association’s champion trainer for the last six years, has a one-race advantage over Ricky Hendriks, 21 wins to 20.
Both are all in for the Charleston finale, with Fisher dropping seven contenders into the entry box and Hendriks with six entries.
The jockey battle between reigning champion Darren Nagle and Jack Doyle is deadlocked at 16 wins apiece. Both top riders have mounts in all four hurdle races.
The battles may well come down to the afternoon’s featured race, a $30,000 ratings handicap that drew an oversubscribed field of 14, with 12 permitted to start on the Stono Ferry turf course.
Frank A. Bonsal Jr.’s Stand Down, making only his fifth career start, became a timber classic winner on Sunday when he pulled away to a 7 3/4-length victory in the 84th running of the $40,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Reserved in the back of the field by jockey Eric Poretz, the six-year-old Irish-bred surged toward the lead approaching the last fence, jumped it with International Gold Cup runner-up Super Saturday, and drew clear to the finish line of the Unionville course.
Irv Naylor’s Super Saturday finished second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Gordonsdale Farm’s Canyon Road in third. Morningstar Farm’s Carrickboy finished fourth in a field of eight.
Trained by Joseph G. Davies, Stand Down ran the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup’s four miles in 8:34 on a course rated as good.
Apple Equipment’s Winner Massagot, a close second in his U.S. debut, soared over the Montpelier Hunt Races’ natural brush fences with jockey Tom Garner and drew away impressively to a 16-length victory in Saturday’s $40,000 Noel Laing Handicap. Trained by Richard Valentine, French-bred Winner Massagot had jumped the last fence on the historic Montpelier grounds
DASH Stable’s Ice It, second in the last two editions of the $75,000 Aflac Supreme Hurdle, prevailed by a head over stablemate Gibralfaro in the Steeplechase at Callaway’s signature race on Saturday.
Sean McDermott, aboard second finisher Gibralfaro, claimed foul, alleging interference at the fourth from last fence, but Callaway’s stewards disallowed the claim. Gillian Johnston’s Set to Music finished third, three lengths behind Gibralfaro.
Carrington Holdings’ Boss Man, who had set the early pace with Gibralfaro, finished fourth. Darren Nagle kept Ice It at the back of the field before launching his bid on the final circuit of the Pine Mountain, Ga., course.
Ice It and Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro are trained by Jack Fisher, who completed the hat trick after winning the previous two races on the Steeplechase at Callaway program. The three wins moved the Maryland-based horseman into the lead for the trainer title ahead of Ricky Hendriks.