Racing News...
Optimus Prime Tops Final 2018 Ratings
by Don Clippinger, NSA
Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime, winner of Grade 1 and Grade 2 stakes races in three U.S. starts, has been awarded the top 157 rating by the National Steeplechase Association’s panel of expert handicappers.

Trained by Ricky Hendriks, the French-bred arrived in the U.S. in late spring and scored a 1 1/2-length victory in Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) on Aug. 23 (Tod Marks photo, left). He came back in four weeks to finish third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), two lengths behind stablemate Zanjabeel.

Optimus Prime overwhelmed his competition in the International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) on Oct. 27, when he kicked clear to win by 18 1/4 lengths under regular jockey Ross Geraghty. Despite his limited U.S. campaign, the six-year-old ended the season third on the leader board with $167,500 in purse earnings.
Optimus Prime at Saratoga. Tod Marks photo.
Optimus Prime and jockey Ross Geraghty over the last in the Zeke Ferguson Memorial at the International Gold Cup in October. Tod Marks photo.
Second in the rankings at 156 was Sideways Syndicate’s Jury Duty, who shipped over for the Far Hills Races’ $450,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) and won by 3 1/4 lengths for leading Irish trainer Gordon Elliott (Tod Marks photo, left). Jury Duty, a seven-year-old Irish-bred, led the 2018 earnings list with $270,000 from his visit to the United States.
Jury Duty wins the Grand National in front of a huge crowd at the Far Hills Race Meeting. Tod Marks photo.
Jury Duty and jockey Robbie Power drive to the wire in the Grand National. Tod Marks photo.
Zanjabeel, owned by Rosbrian and Meadow Run Farm, was ranked third at 152 by the panel comprising Martin Chamberlin, Joe Clancy, and Will O’Keefe, who prepare the ratings under the supervision of NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr.

Also trained by Hendriks, Zanjabeel won the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in addition to the Lonesome Glory (Tod Marks photo, left). The British-bred five-year-old also finished second in the Marion duPont Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2).
Rosbrian Farm's Mandy and George Mahoney and Meadow Run Farm's Wendy and Ben Griswold in the winner's circle for the Lonesome Glory Handicap, with trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Jack Kennedy. Tod Marks photo
Zanjabeel and jockey Ross Geraghty drive to the wire in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Tod Marks photo
Owner-trainer Emmet Mullins’ Tornado Watch, who finished second in the Grand National (Tod Marks photo, left), was fourth in the rankings at 150. In all, the ratings panel evaluated 103 horses to determine the final ratings.
Reserve Now for Annual Awards Dinner

Make your reservations now for the gala annual Steeplechase Champions Dinner and Dance to be held Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Maryland Club in Baltimore. The celebration of the sport’s champions is sponsored by the National Steeplechase Association and the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association.

All the 2018 leaders will be honored at the dinner and dance, which will kick off with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. Dinner will be at 7:30 p.m., followed by the presentation of the 2018 awards. Music will be provided by The Release.

The reservation deadline is Monday, Jan. 7, and tickets are $150 per person. For further information and to RSVP, please contact Courtney Reid, the NSA’s manager of racing operations, at

The reservation form can be downloaded here. The form also contains information on room reservations at the nearby Hotel Indigo at special rates.
Steeplechasing Will Miss...
S. Bruce Smart Jr., a Virginia horseman whose life and career spanned business, government, public service, and environmentalism, died early Thursday. He was 95. (Douglas Lees photo of Mr. Smart at the 2011 Virginia Fall Races)

A National Steeplechase Association Patron member, he and his wife, Edith, operated Trappe Hill Farm in Upperville, where they settled in 1986.

Among the horses he raced in recent years were Orchestra Leader, a multiple feature winner, and 2016 three-year-old champion Officer’s Oath. Both were trained by Jimmy Day. His wife, Emily, spoke of her and Jimmy’s gratitude to Bruce and Edie Smart.

“I can say that his passing on Thanksgiving framed for us the deep, deep gratitude we have for his and Edie’s involvement and participation in so many aspects of our lives, both personal and professional. We were lucky people the day we met the Smarts,” she said.

“To us personally, he was a dear friend as well as a steadfast and enthusiastic supporter of us and our training operation. He was a proper horse and horse-sport enthusiast, the likes of which come along very rarely.

“We were so very fortunate to form a lasting partnership with him and Edie both. From the highest of highs to those times we would rather forget, they loved their horses and the whole Thoroughbred game.”

S. Bruce Smart Jr. was born in Bedford, N.Y., the son of S. Bruce Smart, who served as chairman of Fruit of the Loom from 1935 to 1963. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and held a master’s degree in civil engineering from MIT.

During World War II, he served with the U.S. Army Medical Corps and returned to service during the Korean war with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In business, he culminated a 32-year career with Continental Group, the former Continental Can Co., as chairman and chief executive officer before his retirement in 1985.

Upon his retirement, he became U.S. undersecretary of commerce for international trade in the Reagan administration and serviced in that post until 1988.

A lifelong conservationist, he subsequently served as senior fellow of the World Resources Institute and was the author of Beyond Compliance: A New Industry View of the Environment, in which he laid out a path for forward-looking companies to lead the effort for environmental protection.

He and Edie placed Trappe Hill into a conservation trust, and he served in Virginia as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change.

He also was the author of the three-volume A Community of the Horse: Partnerships, Stakes & Stakeholders, and Legacies, a tribute to the horse culture in the Upperville area.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, December 8, at 10 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville. The family suggests, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the conservation organization of the donor’s choice.
Bruce and Evie Smart at the Virginia Fall Races in 2012. Douglas Lees photo.
Bruce Smart with trainer Jimmy Day at the 2018 Warrenton Point to Point races. Douglas Lees photo.
We're sad to hear that Bob Kinsley's stakes-winning hurdler, Lyonell, trained by Elizabeth Voss and ridden by Jack Doyle, passed away at New Bolton Center last week. Lyonell was a German-bred 7-year-old son of Montjeu who came the US in 2016. He was a multiple stakes winner, who scored his greatest victory in the Grade 2 Temple Gwathmey at the Middleburg Spring Races in 2018. (Tod Marks photo and Facebook post)
In Other News...

Our friends at the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association (SOTA) have a fun post on their Facebook page highlighting race horses out fox hunting. Check it out and add a photo if you've got a race horse of your own out in the hunt field!

Pictured here, from that thread on Facebook, is ex-steeplechaser Professor Plum, ridden aside this fall at the opening meet with the Camden Hunt by Mary Katherine Farnell. Professor Plum has been retired from racing for four years. Thanks, Mary Katherine, for the photo!
Nominations are now being accepted for this year's Woodville Award, to honor the sport’s hard-working caretakers. Please send your nominations to no later than December 17th. The letter must have a detailed description of the person's qualities and attributes. (Pictured, left, are the 2017 Woodville Award winners, Sara Miller, from trainer Willie Dowling’s yard and Michael Benson, from the Amy Taylor Rowe stable with Janet Elliot. Don Clippinger photo)

Steeplechase jockey Hadden Frost has made the move to the US to work with show jumper Allison Firestone in Middleburg, Virginia. Did you know that Hadden's full time career was as a show jumper? We spoke to him about switching between the sports when he was at Willowdale in the spring. The most difficult thing about switching between the two sports, he said, was adjusting one's eye - the distances are very different between a timber jump and a show jump.
Multiple graded stakes winner Irish War Cry will be standing stud at Northview Stallion Station in Maryland. Previously trained by Graham Motion at the Fair Hill Training Center, Irish War Cry has made the short trip down the road to call Chesapeake City his home. Read more about it in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred. (Tod Marks photo of Irish War Cry winning the 2017 Wood Memorial)
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