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HomeRacingA Affected person and Versatile Craftsman, Jonathan Sheppard Achieved Staggering Success

A Affected person and Versatile Craftsman, Jonathan Sheppard Achieved Staggering Success


There are few certainties in life or within the sport of horse racing. However simply as you might rely on the altering of the seasons, you might rely on Jonathan Sheppard sending out winners by the dozen, 12 months after 12 months, in assessments of each pure pace and dexterity over jumps. He retired from coaching within the U.S. earlier than the 2021 season, however maintains a small steady in Eire.

Sheppard is affected person, expert, and a craftsman who ascended to the highest of his commerce. How else are you able to clarify the truth that he received at the least one race on the aggressive Saratoga race meet yearly from 1969 via 2015, an virtually unfathomable streak of 47 years?

Born in Ashwell, Hertfordshire, England in 1940, Sheppard initially appeared destined for all times as a stockbroker in his household’s enterprise, and to his credit score he did give the duty a strive for a time. However early in his grownup life, Sheppard knew he needed to work with horses and went to nice lengths to make his dream come true, starting when he left his job in 1961. “(I) needed to coach horses and never sit in an workplace all day,” Sheppard defined within the Aug. 10, 1990, version of the Owensboro, Ky. Messenger-Inquirer.

Fulfilling that dream can be simpler mentioned than accomplished for Sheppard. Coaching in England appeared out of the query since he was the son of a racing official, and the principles of British racing would thus have restricted Sheppard’s potential to take part as a coach. Irrespective of although – Sheppard merely pulled up stakes and moved to the US, the place he rode races and labored as an assistant to steeplechase coach Burley Cocks earlier than going out on his personal in 1965. Fittingly, Sheppard scored his first victory the next 12 months with Haffaday, a tough-as-nails jumper whom Sheppard would finally practice to victories within the 1967 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, the 1968 New Jersey Hunt Cup, and the 1968 Maryland Hunt Cup.

Greater than 5 a long time later, Sheppard’s outcomes are nothing wanting staggering. His horses earned greater than 1,000,000 {dollars} in purse cash yearly from 1982 to 2019. He skilled the winners of three,426 races, together with greater than a thousand steeplechase occasions. He skilled champion flat runners and steeplechasers, together with the Corridor of Fame inductees Flatterer and Café Prince and the Breeders’ Cup champions Ceaselessly Collectively and Knowledgeable Determination, the latter three all owned by his longtime shopper George Strawbridge Jr. He led all steeplechase trainers in North America by earnings on 28 events and by wins 25 instances. And – oh sure – there was his streak of success at Saratoga, the place he was the main coach in 1984 and 1985.

How did he do it? Sheppard’s profession was constructed on persistence and perseverance. He was at all times keen to take his time to work via the quirks and desires of particular person horses and uncover their full potential, even when it required considering effectively exterior the field.

Certainly one of Sheppard’s greatest flat runners, Ceaselessly Collectively, needed to work via myriad points earlier than she discovered her championship type. Karen Johnson, writing for BloodHorse.comfamous how Ceaselessly Collectively would sometimes refuse to coach and had bother working to her potential on dust as a result of she didn’t look after kickback. Endurance and a swap to turf remedied these points, however an even bigger one nonetheless remained – she was unable to sweat very effectively, an apparent downside for a racehorse. Sheppard’s resolution? He “began feeding her Guinness beer as a result of he mentioned it helps to advertise perspiration – an added bonus is that she likes the style and subsequently cleans up her feed.”

Sheppard’s willingness to experiment definitely reaped nice dividends with Flatterer, arguably the best horse he has ever skilled. Some might need given up on the Pennsylvania-bred gelding after he misplaced 14 of his first 18 begins, together with 9 claiming races at tracks throughout the East Coast. However then Sheppard gave Flatterer a strive over fences and the son of Mo Bay was an absolute beast, using his terrific stamina and athleticism to dominate a few of the most prestigious steeplechase and hurdle races in North America. By the point he retired in 1987, he had received 4 straight Colonial Cups and 4 straight Eclipse Awards as champion steeplechaser.

In truth, Sheppard’s coaching strategies had been unusual in North America, bearing a a lot nearer resemblance to approaches present in Europe. His base of operations was not a racetrack like Santa Anita Park or Belmont Park – it was his personal Ashwell Stables in Pennsylvania, a facility uniquely its personal. You possibly can neglect timing exercises with the tasteless precision discovered at racetracks; Sheppard’s horses tackled high-speed breezes within the “100-acre subject,” the place distances had been lower than precise and instances needed to be thought-about in context with the specifics of the course.

Sheppard’s model of coaching was thought-about extra old style than most, and in the absolute best approach. His horses spent extra time exterior than they’d at a racetrack. They had been capable of practice left-handed and right-handed whereas negotiating hills and undulating floor. This, coupled with Sheppard’s persistence, allowed him to deliver high-class however delicate horses again from lengthy layoffs. Simply think about his work with the veteran Cloudy’s Knight, who returned from a tendon harm to win three graded stakes races in 2009, when he was 9 years outdated.

Sheppard’s numbers started to dwindle in current seasons, and it’s been just a few years since he topped the rankings of steeplechase trainers. However the occasional large winner nonetheless got here his approach – he despatched out All of the Means Jose to win the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory Handicap in 2017 – proper up till his retirement, as a result of identical to his horses, you might by no means rely out Jonathan Sheppard.

Notice: This story was initially revealed in 2019 and has been up to date.

Enjoyable Information

Sheppard was inducted into the Nationwide Museum of Racing’s Corridor of Fame in 1990.
Sheppard is considered one of simply two trainers to have conditioned champions on each the flat and over fences because the Eclipse Awards had been inaugurated in 1971.
Sheppard skilled the Grade 1 winner and 1985 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Storm Cat, who went on to grow to be one of the crucial profitable and influential stallions in U.S. racing historical past.
A few of Sheppard’s former assistants have gone on to attain nice success on their very own, together with the Corridor of Fame steeplechase coach Janet Elliot and the Kentucky Derby-winning coach Graham Movement.


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