The Virginia Equine Alliance, a strong supporter of jump racing since its inception in 2014, will inaugurate cash payments to Virginia-owned or Virginia-trained horses at seven point-to-point race meets in the commonwealth this spring.
Each starter will receive a $200 cash starter reward for each point-to-point start.
Although the point-to-points are not sanctioned, its participants often race under rules in National Steeplechase Association races. For many horses, the point-to-points are a final preparation before racing in NSA meets.
“We hope to get more horses out for the point-to-points and to get people excited about the races,” said John B. “Jeb” Hannum, the Virginia Equine Alliance’s executive director. VEA officials estimate the spring races will attract 200 starts by Virginia-owned or -trained horses.
In addition to the starter rewards, the VEA will provide a $10,000 grant to the Virginia Point-to-Point Foundation to defray some operational costs. The VEA also provides $25,000 in purse supplements to each of the commonwealth’s NSA meets.
Since the closing of Colonial Downs in 2013, steeplechasing has helped to keep racing alive in Virginia. The Virginia Equine Alliance was formed in the aftermath of Colonial’s closing, and revenues generated from off-track wagering sites and online betting platforms have supported race purses.
Zanjabeel, a two-time Grade 1 winner owned by Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm, was honored Thursday evening with the 2018 Eclipse Award as outstanding steeplechase horse. The presentation was made at the annual Eclipse Awards dinner at Gulfstream Park.
Trained by Ricky Hendriks, the then five-year-old gelding won the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 12 and the $175,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 20. He also finished second in the $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on March 31 and the $75,000 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) on April 21.
The North American championship award was determined by votes of National Thoroughbred Racing Association racing secretaries, Daily Racing Form editorial employees, and members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. Other finalists were Rosbrian’s Optimus Prime, also trained by Hendriks and winner of Saratoga Race Course’s $175,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), and $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) victor Jury Duty, who was the year’s leading earner.
Zanjabeel, whose name means “ginger” in Arabic, was an overwhelming choice of the Eclipse voters. He received 176 votes to 22 for Optimus Prime and 12 for Jury Duty. Also receiving votes were novice champion Iranistan (4) and Balance the Budget (1).
Hendriks, a two-time champion steeplechase jockey (1986 and 1987), became the first horseman to be associated with Eclipse Award winners as both rider and trainer. He was the regular jockey of three-time Eclipse winner Zaccio, who took down the sport’s top prize between 1980 and 1982. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member W. Burling Cocks, Zaccio was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.