When Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard formally announced his retirement last week, it not only terminated his license in the U.S., but also voided his provisional ability to run horses in Ireland, under the country’s International Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) rules. So what does that mean for his six-horse string currently stabled at Baltimore Stable in Enniscorthy in County Wexford?
Going forward, the winter campaign will continue uninterrupted, with Keri Brion as trainer. Brion, a Sheppard assistant for 11 years, has her American trainer’s license and has managed the string since shipping overseas for a winter European campaign.
Owners Ed Swyer, Irv Naylor, and Rod Moorhead wrote letters in support of Brion, and she appeared before the IHRB via Zoom on Friday during which she was granted permission to train the horses in her name.
“I am overwhelmed by the support of the owners from all aspects,” said Brion, who has struck out on her own and set up a training base at Fair Hill in Maryland.
“Everything was sprung on me and I had to essentially set up my own operation in America from Ireland in the course of a few days,” she said. “The owners backed me 100 percent and let me move their horses to my new operation at Fair Hill, which is being overseen by Amber Hodyka at the moment… Words can’t describe how appreciative I am for my 11 years under Jonathan, learning from an absolute legend. I know I wouldn’t be standing where I am now without him and I am forever grateful.”
Besides the horses currently in Ireland, Brion will also oversee a stable that includes top and promising runners such as Iranistan, Galway Kid, A Silent Player, Chetzeron, Hyperlapse, Samurai Song, Zoom Zoom Zoe, The Silent Trainer, Leading the Light, High Sierra, and Sportswear.
Another of Sheppard’s owners, Kevin Galbraith of KMSN Stable, expressed his support for Brion: “KMSN Stable has been able to enrich our lives through the sport of steeplechase directly because of Jonathan, Keri, and their team. They have given our horses a second career and us some of the best times of our lives. Like most owners, we are in the sport because horses are in our blood. Importantly, over the past few years Keri has been the primary force that made it ‘fun’ — through her superior communication skills, eternal optimism, tireless work ethic, love of every horse, desire to work as a team, and her horse/training/riding knowledge.”
Added Diane Naylor: “She (Keri) has a remarkable eye and instinct for horses, and constantly keeps us informed as to their progress. She works hard at finding the right race, with the right jockey, and genuinely cares about each and every one of them.”
As for the horses prepping to run overseas, Winston C, the 2019 Eclipse Award winner, has the ultimate goal of competing in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in the spring. He will make his European debut at Navan in a Grade B handicap hurdle on Jan. 23.
- French Light is entered at Clonmel on Jan. 19 in a rated novice hurdle at 2 1/2 miles.
- Baltimore Bucko is scheduled to run at Down Royal on Jan. 26 in a rated novice hurdle at 2 1/2 miles.
- Clondaw Camp will go postward in the Limestone Lad Grade 3 hurdle at Naas on Jan. 31 at 2 miles.
- Fancy Pance will run in a bumper (a special flat race for young jumpers ridden by amateur jockeys) at 2 miles at Limerick on Feb. 2.