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.
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). The French-bred’s $167,500 in 2018 earnings placed him third on the purses list.
Rosbrian was represented by one champion, three-year-old Caldbeck, who won Far Hills’ $50,000 Gladstone Stakes and then locked up the title with a victory at the Steeplechase at Charleston on Nov. 11. Also trained by Hendriks, Caldbeck had earnings of $45,000 from his two U.S. starts over fences.
Hudson River Farms’ Iranistan ruled as the year’s champion novice with purse earnings of $145,000. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, the four-year-old easily won the Iroquois Steeplechase’s $125,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices, finished second in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), and was third in the New York Turf Writers.
Check Mark Stables’ Willow U, winner of a $45,000 Virginia Gold Cup allowance hurdle against male competitors, reigned as the Life’s Illusion Filly and Mare champion. Trained by Richard Valentine, she also finished second in the $50,000 Iris Coggins Memorial at the Fair Hill Races.
Doc Cebu, now owned by Charles Fenwick Jr., Michael Hankin, and Charles Noell, claimed his second straight timber championship with a repeat win in the International Gold Cup on Oct. 27. Trained by Jack Fisher, the Doc also won the Willowdale Steeplechase and the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup for the second year in a row and added a win in Shawan Downs’ Legacy Chase.
Two major titles, champion trainer by wins and champion jockey by wins, were achieved with remarkable come-from-behind surges. Jack Fisher picked up his seventh straight title when he moved to the top of the list on the next to last weekend of the season. He won 22 races, one more than Hendriks. Fisher had purse earnings of $983,850 and was the top trainer by purses for the fifth straight year. Hendriks also finished second in that category, $50,100 behind Fisher.
Reigning champion jockey Darren Nagle made his usual autumn surge and took down the wins title with a victory at Charleston. He had 17 wins, one more than Jack Doyle, who had led the standings from the first day of the season.
Ross Geraghty, the champion jockey in 2012 by wins and purses, claimed his second earnings title with $716,100. He rode Zanjabeel to victory in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois and was the regular rider for Optimus Prime, Caldbeck, and Wendy Hendriks’ multiple stakes winner Surprising Soul, among others.
Eric Poretz, who rode Senior Senator to their second victory in the Maryland Hunt Cup, was the leading apprentice jockey as well as the year’s champion amateur jockey. The 22-year-old Maryland resident had eight wins for the season, placing him sixth on the leader board by victories.
For the second straight year, Irv Naylor was the champion timber owner with $136,100 in purses. Fisher was the leading timber trainer, and Nagle was the leading timber jockey.