Jonathan Sheppard, an acclaimed Racing Corridor of Fame coach whose accomplishments prolonged from steeplechase race meets to the best ranges of Thoroughbred racing, died Sunday, Aug. 27, at his dwelling in Hollywood, Fla. He was 82.
The British-born horseman had retired from coaching early in 2021 with data that can, in a number of cases, stand without end. He was the Nationwide Steeplechase Affiliation’s all-time main coach by wins with 1,242 victories starting in 1966, and his horses earned virtually $25-million on the jumps circuit. Each are data.
He was the steeplechase sport’s main coach by wins a file 26 occasions, and he led the earnings desk 29 occasions, additionally a file. His first coaching title was in 1972, a spare six years after his first win, and his remaining championships, by wins and earnings, have been in 2020, the pandemic-shortened season that concluded his coaching profession.
His horses competed on the highest ranges, and two of them even have plaques within the Racing Corridor of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y: Augustin Stables’ Cafe Prince and Flatterer, who raced for longtime proprietor William Pape, bloodstock agent George Harris, and Sheppard.
Over fences and on the flat, Sheppard had 3,426 victories from 20,997 begins and earnings of $88.7-million, based on Equibase data. He was inducted into the Racing Corridor of Fame in 1990.
In all, Sheppard educated 11 particular person Eclipse Award winners who collected a complete of 15 championships. Flatterer, among the many finest American steeplechase horses of all time, accounted for 4 consecutive titles between 1983 and 1986. The Mo Bay gelding, bred by Pape and Sheppard, additionally completed second within the French and English champion hurdle races in abroad forays.
Two Sheppard-trained Augustin horses recorded titles on the flat: Without end Collectively was the champion turf feminine in 2008, and Knowledgeable Resolution was the next yr’s champion feminine sprinter.
His most notable flat horse missed a championship by a pair inches. William T. Younger despatched two-year-old Storm Cat to Sheppard in 1985, and the Storm Chicken colt blossomed whereas galloped by Sheppard’s spouse, retired jockey Cathy Montgomery Sheppard.
That fall, Storm Cat gained the Younger America Stakes, a Grade 1 race on the Meadowlands, and he simply failed to carry off Tasso within the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Aqueduct Race Course, ending second by a nostril. Tasso subsequently was voted the yr’s champion two-year-old male.
On the suggestion of Cathy and Jonathan Sheppard, Younger retired Storm Cat to the proprietor’s Overbrook Farm in Kentucky, and the son of Storm Chicken was North America’s main sire in 1999 and 2000. Considered one of America’s most sought-after stallions in that period, Storm Cat led the juvenile sire checklist a file seven occasions, and his stud charge rose to $500,000 in 2002.
One measure of Sheppard’s success was his file at one of the crucial tough locations on the earth to win a horse race, Saratoga Race Course. Sheppard gained at the least one race at Saratoga for an unprecedented 47 straight years, by means of 2015. The New York Racing Affiliation named considered one of its two Grade 1 steeplechase races at Saratoga for him in 2021.
The variety of Sheppard’s champions—over fences, on the turf, and in dust sprints—underlines the a number of skills of their coach. However Sheppard additionally was a coach of horsemen. Considered one of his first assistant trainers, Janet Elliot, grew to become the primary girl to win a steeplechase coaching title, in 1991, and the primary feminine coach inducted into the Racing Corridor of Fame, in 2009.
One other former assistant, Graham Movement, saddled Animal Kingdom to victories within the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup. Primarily based on the Honest Hill Coaching Heart in Maryland, Movement has greater than 2,500 victories to his credit score and was a Corridor of Fame nominee in 2023.
Leslie Younger, who labored for Sheppard earlier than and after school, was steeplechasing’s champion coach in 2022 with 37 victories, and former Sheppard assistant Keri Brion was the main jumps coach by 2022 earnings, with greater than $1.1-million in purses.
Sheppard supplied management in different methods. He was the Nationwide Steeplechase Affiliation’s president from 2004 to 2006, and he acquired steeplechasing’s highest honor, the F. Ambrose Clark Award, in 2013 for his contributions to the game.
He imparted his information and knowledge willingly and was all the time the go-to interview for journalists who typically encountered solely sooner or later of horse racing a yr. On uncommon event, he invited racing journalists to trip out together with his horses at Ashwell Steady in West Grove, Pa.
Though he may often grouse privately to race officers, he all the time supplied a optimistic outlook to the game in public. One instance was when considered one of his prime horses, Arcadius, collapsed and died after profitable the 2012 Iroquois Stakes in Nashville. Whereas some trainers may need retired to the barn after such a devastating loss, Sheppard met with the media and defined how blood-vessel ruptures within the coronary heart and main arteries can on uncommon event lead to a sudden dying.
Sheppard additionally was an innovator in some ways, particularly in coaching a lot of his racetrack horses on the farm. Whereas steeplechase horses generally are educated in a rustic setting, flat horses often are housed on the racetracks the place they raced.
Though Sheppard yearly had a barn at Saratoga, a lot of his flat horses had their main preparations at Ashwell, about 35 miles west of Philadelphia. When Sheppard started coaching, steady dimension often was restricted to the variety of stalls a coach obtained at his or her important base, generally 40.
Sheppard’s steady often was a lot bigger, numbering greater than 70 within the early Nineteen Eighties. In that period, Corridor of Fame trainers Jack Van Berg and D. Wayne Lukas had equally massive operations unfold over a number of racetracks.
Each developments—nation places and huge stables—mirrored coaching practices in his native England. Jonathan Eustace Sheppard was born Dec. 2, 1940 in Ashwell, a Herefordshire hamlet about 45 miles north of London, to Daniel and Cynthia Sheppard. Considered one of 4 kids, he was raised round horses and have become an completed jockey in point-to-point races, which have been critical however unsanctioned race meets resembling America’s steeplechase meets.
He couldn’t progress past the point-to-points, nevertheless. Daniel Sheppard was a senior official of the Jockey Membership in England, and conflict-of-interest guidelines restricted the youthful Sheppard’s alternatives in sanctioned races. Additionally, he lacked the monetary assets to start coaching in his dwelling nation.
Sheppard traveled to the US within the early Sixties and rode for Corridor of Fame steeplechase coach W. Burling Cocks. After a pair seasons, Sheppard returned dwelling however got here again to the US in 1965 to see if he may succeed as a steeplechase coach.
He would succeed past anybody’s wildest desires, though integrity and honesty somewhat than a bunch of early winners decided the trajectory of his profession. In 1965, he had met George Strawbridge Jr., a scion of the Campbell Soup Co. household who was an completed novice steeplechase jockey and needed to unfold his wings as an proprietor within the Augustin silks.
Early of their partnership, a Strawbridge horse sustained a leg damage in a race. Sheppard volunteered that the horse’s bandages might have been too tight and leaping boots might have been utilized incorrectly.
Strawbridge mentioned in a late-Seventies interview that he was impressed with Sheppard’s forthright admission, and their relationship took off. Strawbridge’s Augustin operation was steeplechasing’s main proprietor a file 23 occasions starting in 1974.
Invoice Pape, a well known Lengthy Island auto vendor, additionally joined the Sheppard crew as he expanded his racing operation within the late Sixties, and so they accounted for 5 Eclipse steeplechase champions over 40 years, from Athenian Idol in 1973 to Divine Fortune in 2013.
Behind Sheppard’s light demeanor and lilting Etonian accent was a hard-working, extremely motivated horseman who strived to outwork his competitors. From his Ashwell base, he drove to tracks the place he had horses stabled and the place he saddled his starters. On at the least one event, he was pulled over for learning Every day Racing Type previous performances whereas driving on a serious freeway.
Each his work ethic and his accomplishments earned him a uncommon honor, one that can by no means be documented in any file e-book. Within the steeplechase world, he was identified by his first identify alone. Say “Jonathan” to anybody within the jumps group, and the reference was instantly understood.
In that milieu, there was just one Jonathan, Jonathan Sheppard.
His dying was attributed to problems from late-stage Lyme Illness. Along with his spouse of 33 years, he’s survived by three kids from earlier marriages. Funeral companies will likely be personal, and a celebration of his life will likely be scheduled at a later date.
In his reminiscence, donations to injured-jockey and racehorse-retirement charities are advised.