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Sheppard reaches four figures, in style

Arcadius' Monmouth win gives trainer No. 1,000

Posted: October 1, 2010 10:30 a.m.
Updated: September 29, 2010 10:19 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

BRIAN CROWLEY PILOTED ARCADIUS to victory in Saturday’s Monmouth feature. The pair could have the $100,000 Carolina First Colonial Cup on their radar.

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A few years ago, Jonathan Sheppard noticed that he was approaching his 1,000th career steeplechase victory, although he did not believe that he would reach that milestone before 2011. But a spectacular season in 2010 placed him at that milestone mark on Sept. 25 when he saddled Hudson River Stables’ Arcadius to win the $100,000 Helen Haskell Sampson Stakes (Gr. 1) at Monmouth Park.

Sheppard, 69, had reached the brink of his 1,000th victory over fences earlier in the afternoon, when Port Mosebey won a $25,000  maiden special weight race for the Racing Hall of Fame trainer’s longtime client Augustin Stables, the racing and breeding operation of George Strawbridge Jr.

The British-born horseman and part-time Camden resident who keeps a year-'round stable at the Springdale Race Course won his first race as a trainer with Redmond C. Stewart Jr.’s Haffaday at My Lady’s Manor in 1966.

The Helen Sampson victory was Sheppard’s 21st of the year, and he is winning at a lights-out 31% rate. From 68 starts, his stable has finished in the money in two-thirds of their races.

He and another longtime client, Bill Pape, had an spectacular Saratoga Race Course meet, where they won four of five races and finished second in the fifth. Sheppard also finished first and second in three of those victories, including Pape’s Sermon of Love and Arcadius in the $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) and Pape’s Divine Fortune and Arcadius in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 2).

Sheppard’s earnings for the year, through Sept. 25, totaled $640,130, which puts him within shouting range of his best year ever, $929,375 in 1992. Still ahead on the schedule are two rich Grade 1 races, the $250,000 Grand National at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 23 and the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) in Camden, on Nov. 13.

Last year, he claimed his 11th steeplechase Eclipse Award with Bill Pape’s Mixed Up, winner of the A. P. Smithwick (Gr. 1) and Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). He also won his second flat Eclipse Award with Augustin’s Informed Decision (female sprinter), after Augustin’s Forever Together (turf female) in 2008. His other six steeplechase champions are Athenian Idol, Cafe Prince, Martie’s Anger, Flatterer, Jimmy Lorenzo and Highland Bud. Flatterer was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1994, four years after Sheppard.

Aracdius makes it an even 1,000: Under strong handling by jockey Brian Crowley, Hudson River Farms’ Arcadius surged through Monmouth Park’s stretch to win the $100,000 Helen Haskell Sampson Stakes (Gr. 1) on Saturday and gave Sheppard his 1,000th victory under National Steeplechase Association rules.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s pace-setting Slip Away finished second, a length back, and Seer closed ground to finish third, a nose in front of Move-Up Stable’s Quiet Approval.

Also in Saturday action, Arcadia Stable’s Delta Park prevailed by 4 1/2 lengths over Manown Kisor Jr.’s Gather No Moss in the $25,000 Ski Roundtop Trophy, feature of the Races at Shawan Downs in Hunt Valley, Md.

Trained by Jack Fisher and ridden by Fritz Boniface, Delta Park ran the Ski Roundtop’s three miles over timber fences in 6:04.40 on ground rated as hard. Prospectors Strike, also trained by Fisher, finished third.

On Sunday, Hamilton Farm’s Great Halo won the $15,000 Barracks Maiden Hurdle by three-quarters of a length over Zula Road at the Foxfield Fall Races in Charlottesville, Va.

In Sheppard’s spectacular 2010 season, Arcadius has largely been overshadowed by other members of the trainer’s Pennsylvania-based stable. With Crowley aboard, the 6-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding had finished second to Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune in Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 2) on Aug. 5, and the Irish jockey took the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) aboard Pape’s Sermon of Love, with Arcadius again second.

Sheppard switched tactics and put Crowley on Arcadius for the Haskell Sampson, with Danielle Hodsdon riding Sermon of Love. As expected, Slip Away went to the lead under jockey Paddy Young, and Crowley placed Arcadius in a stalking position while in the clear on the outside.

As the field of seven completed the final circuit of the firm Monmouth course, Crowley sent Arcadius after Slip Away, who was jumping comfortably. Slip Away jumped the last fence in front, but Arcadius steadily wore him down to win going away.

“I did win it this time,” Crowley shouted to Hudson River Farms owner Edward P. Swyer as he left the winner’s circle to weigh in. The jockey had been disappointed that he had not gotten clear until late in the Smithwick and had no chance of catching Divine Fortune.

Sent off as the 1.70-to-1 favorite, Arcadius ran the Haskell Sampson’s 2 1/2 miles in 4:37.55.

Seer, owned by Sheila J. Williams and Andre W. Brewster, closed well to get the place. Sermon of Love never was a factor in the late stages of the race and finished seventh.

Sheppard leads the 2010 trainer standings by both wins and earnings by wide margins, and he won all but one of Saratoga’s steeplechase races.

He moved within one of the milestone win earlier on the Monmouth program when Augustin Stables’ Port Morsbey scored a head victory over even-money favorite Good Request in a $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle.

Ridden by Hodsdon, Augustin’s homebred four-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding went off at 5.10-to-1 and ran the 2 1/4-mile distance in 4:28.78. Nina S. Strawbridge’s Salinja, the 3-to-1 second betting choice, finished third in a field of eight.

Easy Red takes Metcalf Memorial Novice: Crowley, who has been nearly as hot as Sheppard, gave a well-timed ride to Dumbarton Farm’s Easy Red to win the $70,000 Metcalf Memorial Novice for young steeplechase horses.

Trained by Tom Voss, Easy Red validated his victory in a Saratoga allowance-optional claimer with his three-quarter-length victory at 6.80-to-1. James Piper’s Call You in Ten broke out of traffic late to finish second, a half-length ahead of Alnoff Stable’s Ground Frost, who also is trained by Voss.

Owner-trainer Michele C. Sanger’s Birthday Beau, who set the early pace by as many as 12 lengths under Ross Geraghty, took fourth in the field of eight.

Ironically, it was Easy Red who had denied Pape and Sheppard a Saratoga sweep when he turned back Lead Us Not, ridden by Crowley, in the Sept. 2 race at Saratoga. Always in good position, Easy Red rallied through the stretch to secure the victory in the Metcalf Memorial.

Ptarmigan nips Miss Crown in Guelph: Doug Fout, who trains Call You in Ten, won the Monmouth card’s first steeplechase race with Magalen O. Bryant’s Ptarmigan, who closed relentlessly through the final yards on to nip owner-trainer Kate Dalton’s Miss Crown by a nose in the $30,000 Guelph Stakes.

Ridden by Jeff Murphy, Ptarmigan raced toward the back of the six-horse field as Flying Horse Farm’s Farah T. Salute set the pace under Xavier Aizpuru, with Miss Crown shadowing the front-runner through the first two miles of the 2 1/4-mile Guelph, a Sport of Kings race for fillies and mares.

Ptarmigan kicked in shortly before the next to last fence and jumped powerfully into contention from the outside. Miss Crown, the 2-to-1 favorite ridden by Bernie Dalton, dispatched Farah T. Salute entering the stretch and jumped the last with a slight advantage over Ptarmigan.

Miss Crown appeared to spurt away slightly after the fence, but Ptarmigan made steady progress and gained a narrow advantage just before the finish line. “She put her head down and went on,” Murphy said.

Moon Dolly finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Miss Crown, and Farah T Salute held fourth. Sent off at 2.60-to-1, Ptarmigan ran the Guelph’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:31.25 on firm turf.

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