The National Steeplechase Association’s 2018 champions were crowned Thursday at a gala awards dinner and dance held at the Maryland Club in Baltimore. The dinner and dance were jointly sponsored by the National Steeplechase Association and the Steeplechase Owners and Breeders Association.
The year’s Lonesome Glory Award went to 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.
Topping the owner list by a wide margin was Rosbrian Farm, which earned $712,050 from 54 starts.
Owned by Mandy and George Mahoney, the stable had 14 victories, including two Grade 1 wins—the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois and Belmont Park’s $175,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap—by 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 $265,500. 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).
Hendriks also trained Rosbrian’s Optimus Prime, winner of Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and the International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2). He, Zanjabeel, and Jury Duty are the finalists for the 2018 Eclipse Award, which will be announced on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park.
Phyllis Mills Wyeth, a prominent Thoroughbred owner and philanthropist who raced steeplechase horses, died Monday at her home in Chester County, Pa. She was 78. Wife of well-known artist Jamie Wyeth, she is best known for breeding and racing Union Rags, the 2012 Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1) winner who has become a prominent sire. She
Steeplechase fine art by Maryland-based painter Sam Robinson will grace the annual Steeplechase Awards Dinner and Dance on Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Maryland Club in Baltimore.
Robinson, who resides in the Greenspring Valley, was a frequent presence on the 2018 National Steeplechase Association circuit.
His stunning oil paintings, in a realistic style reminiscent of Sir Alfred Munnings, will appear on the cover of American Steeplechasing 2018 and inside the volume.
A small collection of his works will be on display at the awards dinner and dance, which is sponsored by the NSA and the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association.
Robinson said he tries to see the overall flow of shapes and colors, the energy and elegance of the horses, the dance of legs and feet, the lines of tack and shanks, the poses of the riders, and the shapes and faces in the crowds.
Sales resulting from the show will benefit the NSA, with 50% of the proceeds going to the association.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced on Saturday the three Eclipse Award finalists in each racing division, and the top trio over fences are, in alphabetical order, Jury Duty, Optimus Prime, and Zanjabeel.
The top three were selected in balloting by NTRA racing secretaries, Daily Racing Form editorial employees, and members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. The Eclipse Award winners, including Horse of the Year, will be announced on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
That announcement comes one week after the steeplechase champions will be honored at the annual awards dinners and dance at the Maryland Club in Baltimore. The dinner is sponsored by the National Steeplechase Association and the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association.
The three top steeplechase finalists were not unexpected. Zanjabeel, owned by Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm, won two Grade 1 races in 2018, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois in May and Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap in September. He also finished second in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) in the spring.
Rosbrian’s Optimus Prime won a Grade 1 race, Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup, in his American debut, finished third in the Lonesome Glory, and then ran away with the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) at the International Gold Cup in October. Ricky Hendriks trained both Zanjabeel and Optimus Prime.
Sideways Syndicate’s Jury Duty, trained by top Irish horseman Gordon Elliott, shipped to the United States for a 3 1/4-length victory in Far Hills’ $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), America’s richest steeplechase race.
With the season’s final race meet, the National Steeplechase Association’s Safety Committee concluded the sixth year of its continual efforts to maximize the safety of jump racing’s horses and riders.
“The safety of our competitors has always—always—been the first priority of the National Steeplechase Association and its Board of Directors,” said NSA President Guy J. Torsilieri. “When the Board of Directors authorized formation of the Safety Committee in 2012, our intention was to state explicitly and emphatically that safety is the defining value in everything that we do and in every decision that we make.”
The Board of Directors mandated that the Safety Committee would look at every aspect of the sport and evaluate it scientifically and statistically to determine how to implement improvements that enhanced horse and rider safety.
“We had the right person to lead this effort, Reynolds Cowles, a distinguished veterinarian and steeplechase horseman who is a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners,” Torsilieri said. “With his diligent and thoughtful leadership, the Safety Committee has suggested dozens of improvements for jump racing, and the NSA board has adopted them.”
Cowles assembled a highly diverse committee of all stakeholders, including jockeys and former jockeys, trainers, veterinarians, stewards, NSA officials, and race-meet officials. Also, the Safety Committee has worked with jump-racing authorities in other countries to benefit from their experiences and research. Each year, the Safety Committee has recommended improvements to the sport that were adopted by the Board of Directors.
The Eclipse Awards ballots have been distributed, and the Daily Racing Form past performances for the top candidates contain six steeplechase contenders. In alphabetical order, they are: Stonelea Stable’s Balance the Budget, Hudson River Farms’ Iranistan, Sideways Syndicate’s Jury Duty, Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime, Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, and Rosbrian Farm’s and Meadow Run Farm’s Zanjabeel.
While members of the three voting groups—National Thoroughbred Racing Association racing secretaries, Daily Racing Form editorial employees, and National Turf Writers and Broadcasters members—can cast their ballots for any deserving candidate, most voters determine their picks from the Form’s past performances.
The ballots are due on Jan. 2, and the NTRA will announce the three finalists in each division shortly thereafter. The winners will be announced at the Eclipse Awards dinner at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24, one week after the annual awards dinner and dance sponsored by the National Steeplechase Association and the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association at the Maryland Club in Baltimore.
Here are capsule descriptions of the six steeplechase candidates, based on the level of races they won and purse earnings.