The New York Racing Association will honor the Hall of Fame trainer at Saratoga, where he achieved immortality by winning at least once race for 47 consecutive years.
It’s only fitting that one of the most prestigious races in American steeplechasing carries the name of its most revered and accomplished ambassador, and starting with this year’s running in August, the Grade 1 $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup will be rechristened the Jonathan Sheppard, a race he dominated a remarkable 15 times.
The 80-year-old, who retired in January after a 56-year career, has an unparalleled list of accomplishments, many of which took place in New York, starting with his Saratoga winning streak from 1969 through 2015.
Sheppard, a native of Ashwell, England, captured the National Steeplechase Association training title 26 times, his final award coming in his final season. Sheppard conditioned 15 Eclipse-Award winners over hurdles and on the flat, racked up 3,426 winners, and more than $89 million in purses. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
“Jonathan Sheppard has been the dominant force in American steeplechase racing for decades and has always represented the sport in a positive way, particularly at Saratoga, where his success has gained national attention,” said Bill Gallo, director or racing for the NSA. “We thank NYRA and the New York Turf Writers for honoring Jonathan in this fashion.”
Sheppard’s namesake hurdle will be contested on Aug. 19 at 2 ⅜ miles. Saratoga is home to another Grade 1 jump race, the $150,000 A.P. Smithwick, scheduled for July 22.
The NSA is also honoring Sheppard with an accolade of its own. The soon-to-be-released 2020 Yearbook, American Steeplechasing, a comprehensive review of last season’s races and a compendium of the sport’s history, is dedicated to the trainer who has left an indelible imprint on the turf. (See accompanying Yearbook dedication page.)
Click here to read the full press release from NYRA: