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‘Building’ up a new resume

Former chaser Nationbuilder wins over timber

Posted: March 31, 2013 2:10 p.m.
Updated: April 1, 2013 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

NATIONBUILDER AND DARREN NAGLE fly a fence en route to their winning Saturday’s $20,000 C.P. and Edith Wills Dubose Cup, a three-mile chase over the timber fences at the Springdale Race Course.

Proving, once again, that he can train --- and win --- with anything which has four hooves, a mane and a halter, Hall of Fame conditioner Jonathan Sheppard picked up a rare score over timber on the undercard of Saturday’s Carolina Cup.
The part-time Camden resident gave Darren Nagle a leg up aboard Bill Pape’s Nationbuilder, which made it 2-for-2 over timber fences in winning the $20,000 C.P. and Edith Wills DuBose Cup, a three-mile journey around figure-8 shaped  layout in the middle of the Springdale Race Course.
The Augustin Stable-bred 9-year-old beat Irv Naylor’s Saluda Sam (Willie McCarthy) to the finish line by 6 ½ lengths with the Tom Voss-owned and trained Farndale (Kieran Norris) coming home third. The winning time was 6:14.
After having worked his way into the top echelon of steeplechasing, including a third-place finish in the 2011 A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga and then,  coming home third in last May’s $150,000 Iroquois (Gr. I), Sheppard converted Nationbuilder into a timber jumper. The move paid off with a win in a $10,000 maiden race at Callaway Gardens last year followed by Saturday’s victory in its first start of 2013.
Nationbuilder is one of just two timber horses in Sheppard’s deep barn. And as the veteran trainer said, there is good reason for a paucity of such jumpers under his watch.
“It just scares me, timber, period,” said Sheppard, who at the beginning of his stellar career with virtually all timber jumpers in his barn. After finding success with hurdle and flat horses, Sheppard said the timber jumpers became too much for he and his staff to handle.
“I didn’t like the way a lot of these timber horses came back … beaten up,” he said. “It wasn’t major injuries, but they do get banged up more than in other races. It’s a specialized type of thing.’
When Nagle came along, it gave Sheppard’s barn a jockey who had experience riding and schooling timber jumpers. “He’s been very helpful,” Sheppard said while noting that other riders he employs have also worked with Nationbuilder in easing with the conversion to timber jumping for a former Grade I caliber hurdle horse which always seemed to be knocking at the door of a win, only to be turned away.
Timber jumping, though, has proven to be a different story, albeit after just two starts.
“It seemed like he was in a tough group of the top hurdle horses and he was always seeming to get out-paced,” Sheppard said of Nationbuilder. “He was staying on nicely, finishing third, fourth and fifth, but not ever quite getting to where it looked like he was going to win it.
“The top five or six horses were very nice horses and (Nationbuilder) had run through his conditions so, he had to run in the big races or, not at all. He seemed to jump and stay well so, somebody said that he would make a nice timber horse. So, we thought we’d give it a shot.”
Before Nationbuilder’s win in Saturday’s fourth race, Sheppard and Nagle found themselves in the winners’ circle a race earlier with Nagle piloting the Pape-owned 4-year-old Powerofone to a three-quarter length victory over the Naylor-owned Sacred Soul (Ross Geraghty) in the $25,000 Camden Plate Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle. Move Up Stable’s West is Best (Bernie Dalton) was third in the starting field of 10.
The winning time for the two-mile chase over National fences was 3:53.40.

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