The three most recent steeplechase Eclipse Award champions rank atop the initial ratings for the National Steeplechase Association’s upcoming 2020 season. The spring schedule kicks off on Saturday, March 21, at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase.
The rankings, which determine weight assignments in the increasingly popular ratings handicaps and are a guideline for weights in open handicaps, are determined by a three-member committee working under NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo. The committee members are Equibase chart caller Martin Chamberlin, racing journalist Joe Clancy, and race director and announcer Will O’Keefe.
Numerical ratings were assigned to 95 hurdle winners in training for the new season.
Atop the initial 2020 ratings at 154 is Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer, the 2017 Eclipse champion who came back last year to score his second victory in the spring’s richest race, the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). He closed out the 2019 season with a second-place finish in the Far Hills Races’ $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), the richest race on the NSA’s annual schedule. He is trained by Jack Fisher.
Second in the rankings at 152 is Hudson River Farms’ Winston C, who was voted the 2019 Eclipse Award after Grade 1 victories at Saratoga Race Course in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial and the New York Turf Writers Cup. Trained by Jonathan Sheppard, he concluded his season with a fourth-place finish in Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1).
The 2018 Eclipse winner, Rosbrian Farm’s Zanjabeel, made a brief comeback last fall and finished fourth in the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) at the International Gold Cup. Trained by Ricky Hendriks, Zanjabeel had won the 2018 Calvin Houghland Iroquois and Lonesome Glory. He is ranked at 150.
Bruton Street-US’s Moscato, the 2017 novice champion, won last spring’s Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) and finished third behind stablemate Scorpiancer in the Grand National. He also is trained by Fisher and was rated at 148.
Also at 148 is Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul, winner of the 2019 Lonesome Glory. He is trained by Ricky Hendriks, the owner’s son.
Deadlocked at 145 are two other Bruton Street-US horses from the Fisher barn, Pravalaguna and Snap Decision. While trained by top Irish horseman Willie Mullins, Pravalaguna easily won Far Hill’s Peapack Stakes for fillies and mares in October.
Fisher trained Snap Decision to the 2019 novice title, culminating in a victory in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle.
The complete list of the initial ratings is at: