Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime, winner of Grade 1 and Grade 2 stakes races in three U.S. starts, has been awarded the top 157 rating by the National Steeplechase Association’s panel of expert handicappers.
Trained by Ricky Hendriks, the French-bred arrived in the U.S. in late spring and scored a 1 1/2-length victory in Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) on Aug. 23. He came back in four weeks to finish third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), two lengths behind stablemate Zanjabeel.
Optimus Prime overwhelmed his competition in the International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) on Oct. 27, when he kicked clear to win by 18 1/4 lengths under regular jockey Ross Geraghty. Despite his limited U.S. campaign, the six-year-old ended the season third on the leader board with $167,500 in purse earnings.
Second in the rankings at 156 was Sideways Syndicate’s Jury Duty, who shipped over for the Far Hills Races’ $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) and won by 3 1/4 lengths for leading Irish trainer Gordon Elliott. Jury Duty, a seven-year-old Irish-bred, led the 2018 earnings list with $270,000 from his visit to the United States.
Zanjabeel, owned by Rosbrian and Meadow Run Farm, was ranked third at 152 by the panel comprising Martin Chamberlin, Joe Clancy, and Will O’Keefe, who prepare the ratings under the supervision of NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr.
S. Bruce Smart Jr., a Virginia horseman whose life and career spanned business, government, public service, and environmentalism, died early Thursday. He was 95.
A National Steeplechase Association Patron member, he and his wife, Edith, operated Trappe Hill Farm in Upperville, where they settled in 1986.
Among the horses he raced in recent years were Orchestra Leader, a multiple feature winner, and 2016 three-year-old champion Officer’s Oath. Both were trained by Jimmy Day. His wife, Emily, spoke of her and Jimmy’s gratitude to Bruce and Edie Smart.
“I can say that his passing on Thanksgiving framed for us the deep, deep gratitude we have for his and Edie’s involvement and participation in so many aspects of our lives, both personal and professional. We were lucky people the day we met the Smarts,” she said.
“To us personally, he was a dear friend as well as a steadfast and enthusiastic supporter of us and our training operation. He was a proper horse and horse-sport enthusiast, the likes of which come along very rarely.
“We were so very fortunate to form a lasting partnership with him and Edie both. From the highest of highs to those times we would rather forget, they loved their horses and the whole Thoroughbred game.”
Make your reservations now for the gala annual Steeplechase Champions Dinner and Dance to be held Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Maryland Club in Baltimore. The celebration of the sport’s champions is sponsored by the National Steeplechase Association and the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association.
All the 2018 leaders will be honored at the dinner and dance, which will kick off with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. Dinner will be at 7:30 p.m., followed by the presentation of the 2018 awards. Music will be provided by The Release.
The reservations deadline is Monday, Jan. 7, and tickets are $150 per person. For further information and to RSVP, please contact Courtney Reid, the NSA’s manager of racing operations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The reservation form can be downloaded at https://www.nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/AwardsDinnerForm2018.pdf. The form also contains information on room reservations at the nearby Hotel Indigo at special rates.
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.