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Sheppard jumpers in line for Eclipse Award

Posted: January 8, 2014 2:17 p.m.
Updated: January 10, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Jonathan Sheppard has more than a puncher’s chance at having one of his jumpers win the 2013 Eclipse Award for steeplechasing.

On Wednesday, the three finalists for the top honor in racing were announced with the Hall of Fame trainer and part-time Camden resident having two-thirds of the trio in his barn led by Divine Fortune, the National Steeplechase Association’s 2103 Lonesome Glory Champions Award winner.

The 43rd Eclipse Awards will be presented at the annual banquet to be held on Saturday, Jan 18 at Gulfstream Park Racetrack and Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The Eclipse Awards, honoring excellence in Thoroughbred racing, are voted upon by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters and the Daily Racing Form.

Joining the William Pape- and Jonathan Sheppard-owned Divine Fortune are the Sheppard-owned and trained Italian Wedding and Magalen Bryant’s Gustavian, trained by Leslie Young. All three jumpers competed in last November’s $100,000 Colonial Cup in Camden, won by Gregory Hawkins’ Alajmal for Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot.

Divine Fortune, a now-11-year-old Royal Anthem gelding, enjoyed a breakout 2013 campaign as the veteran chaser scored the biggest win of its career by galloping to a 5 ½-length victory in the $250,000 Grand National in Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 19 with Darren Nagle in the saddle.

The Grand National triumph was the second score of the year for Divine Fortune which won Stoneybrook’s Sandhills Cup in April. Divine Fortune finished second by a neck to Demonstrative in the $150,000 Iroquois in Nashville last May and was third in the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial in Saratoga in August.

Divine Fortune, which ran fourth in the Colonial Cup feature, led the NSA in earnings with a career-best $207,000 from seven 2013 starts with two wins, a second and a third.

Italian Wedding, which had Camden’s Bernie Dalton in the irons for each of its five starts last year, found its way into the Grade I winners’ circle for the first time last summer by winning the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup in Saratoga.

The now-9-year-old Alphabet Soup gelding kicked off its 2013 campaign with a second in the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial at the Spa before finishing off the year with a third in the $100,000 Colonial Cup in Camden.

Italian Wedding was third on the 2013 NSA money list with $133,000 having been won from five starts with a win, a second and two thirds.

Gustavian, which carried 2013 NSA champion rider Paddy Young for his wife and trainer Leslie, was second on the NSA earnings chart having bankrolled $149,000 from five 2013 starts which included a win, two seconds and a third.

The now-8-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding scored the biggest win of its career by winning the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Stakes at Belmont Park in September. One month later, Gustavian finished second behind Divine Fortune in the $250,000 Grand National before unseating Young in the Colonial Cup feature in its final start of the year.

Wise Dan eyeing second straight Horse of Year award: Wise Dan will try to make it back-to-back as Horse of the Year as the now-7-year-old turf specialist is a finalist for the 2103 Horse of the Year.

The winner of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile is joined by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man and five-time 3-year-old winner and finalist Will Take Charge in the race for Horse of the Year.

Of the 272 eligible voters representing the NTRA, the NTWAB and Daily Racing Form, 249 (91.5%) took part in this year’s voting. Finalists were determined in each category by voters’ top three selections, using a 10-5-1 point basis. Eclipse Award winners are determined solely by first place votes.  

The 2013 Eclipse Awards finalists (in alphabetical order) are: 

Horse of the Year:   Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge, Wise Dan  

Two-Year-Old Male:   Havana, New Year’s Day, Shared Belief

Two-Year-Old Filly:   Chriselliam (IRE), Ria Antonia, She’s a Tiger

Three-Year-Old Male:   Orb, Palace Malice, Will Take Charge

Three-Year-Old Filly:   Beholder, Close Hatches, Princess of Sylmar 

Older Male:   Game On Dude, Mucho Macho Man, Wise Dan      

Older Female:   Joyful Victory, Royal Delta, Tiz Miz Sue

Male Sprinter:   Points Offthebench, Sahara Sky, Secret Circle 

Female Sprinter:   Dance to Bristol, Groupie Doll, Mizdirection                     

Male Turf Horse:   Magician (IRE), Point of Entry, Wise Dan        

Female Turf Horse:   Dank (GB), Laughing (IRE), Mizdirection

Steeplechase Horse:   Divine Fortune, Gustavian, Italian Wedding

Owner:   Juddmonte Farms, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey

Breeder:   Adena Springs, Morton Fink, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey         

Trainer:   Bob Baffert, Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher     

Jockey:   Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario, Gary Stevens

Apprentice Jockey:   Victor Carrasco, Manuel Franco, Edgard Zayas 

In addition to honoring the 17 winners in the horse and human categories, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance will be recognized with an Eclipse Special Award. Jim Benes will receive an Eclipse Award as the Handicapper of the Year. Members of the media will be honored for outstanding coverage in six categories.

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