Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard recorded his 3,000th victory Sept. 17 when Fugitive Angel won an allowance on the turf at Delaware Park for Sheppard’s longtime patron Augustin Stable.
Sheppard became the 28th trainer to achieve the milestone. Elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1990, he trained his first winner in 1966 with timber horse Haffaday. Since then, the wins have come consistently in both codes, Sheppard is the only trainer to win more than 1,000 steeplechase races in America.
Originally from Ashwell, England, the 72-year-old Pennsylvania resident has trained champions on the flat and in jump racing, including Breeders’ Cup winners Forever Together and Informed Decision and Hall of Fame steeplechasers Flatterer and Cafe Prince.
Asked to name some of his favorites through the years, he hesitated over an unfair question before taking a walk through history. “And what is this supposed to be based on. . . ?”
Pretty much anything, and in no particular order:
*Gaddo: “He was the first horse I had for George Strawbridge and just kept chugging along. He won 21 races (in the 1960s and ’70s) and was a pretty sharp little horse.”
Mo Bay: “I’ll never forget him. He was just a warrior for several years in succession (mid-1970s). Turf, dirt, he wasn’t quite a top horse but he won a lot of races.”
Rochester: “He ran in that long distance turf stakes in the fall at Keeneland (the Sycamore, which he won three times) six consecutive years.”
Then Sheppard got rolling, speeding up the recall and traveling through time. . . “We had two real nice fillies who won back-to-back Flower Bowls, Trevita (Ire) and First Approach (in 1982-83). You’ve got to name Flatterer and Storm Cat, the best jumper and the best flat horse I’ve ever had. With Anticipation was a lot of fun and a nice, classy horse. *Wustenchef won stakes on the flat and over jumps (in the same year, 1971). The gray fillies, Informed Decision and Forever Together. I would throw (steeplechaser) Tall Award in there. I think they had an extra bonus on the Dixie Circuit one year, there were five races in six weeks and he ran in every one of them; he got the money, he wasn’t a top horse but he was a nice old horse.”
He could have gone on, but stopped there?–?knowing full well he left out some favorites.
“You think of the old, warrior types when you think about winning races,” he said. “It’s not like (3,000 wins) is some uncharted territory; people have done it, but it’s a fairly select group and I’m glad it was done with an Augustin horse at a better quality race at Delaware Park.”
– Sean and Joe Clancy