NEW KENT, Va.--Jonathan Sheppard had two very promising winners in $20,000 Maiden Special Weight steeplechase races at Colonial Downs on Aug. 10, moving him into just two wins short of Jack Fisher on the Trainer, Races Won leader board.
Assistant trainer Keri Brion, who found both of these young horses in Ireland, saddled both winners for Sheppard, and both were ridden by Gerard Galligan, whose wins moved him into a tie for Rider, Races Won with Mikey Mitchell.
One of the winners, French Light, belongs to Irv Naylor, the other, Baltimore Bucko, is owned by Buttonwood Farm LLC, and both were found by Brion last December while she was at James Doyle's Baltimore Stables in Wexford, Ireland.
NAYLOR is a relatively new owner for Sheppard having come aboard just last January with three horses from Ireland, all recommended by Brion.
"These are three really nice, top class horses," said Brion. "They were for sale, and we didn't have an owner to send them to, so I took a shot in the dark and called Diane Naylor. I just called out of the blue, and she said, `Let's do it.'"
The first of the three, A Silent Player, won the week before at Colonial Downs, French Light also won at Colonial Downs, and Chetzeron will start for the second time in this country next week after pulling up in his first race at Middleburg in June.
"This was Keri's little project," said Sheppard, who said he wasn't sure where French Light and Baltimore Bucko would start next. "Horses have to have won to run at Saratoga, so until they won we couldn't really make any plans."
French Light finished third and then second at Middleburg and Great Meadow in his first two starts in this country.
"French Light was ridden on the front end in his first two races," said Brion. "He gets lost out there. When he won a point-to-point in Ireland, he ran in behind, so we told Gerard to keep him in back and come at the end."
Galligan did just that, staying at the back of the pack for the first two rounds of the 2 mile track, beginning to move on the last turn, moving to the front in the stretch and finishing under a hand ride to win by 5 lengths.
"He's more experience now, and he'll be ready to move on to bigger and better things," said Brion.
BALTIMORE BUCKO also settled off the pace, began his move on the backside over the last hurdle, moved to the front in the stretch and also finished geared down to win the 4 1/2 lengths.
He had run second in this first race at Great Meadow, beaten by a 1/2 length by Fast Car, who went on to win at Saratoga.
"That was Bucko's first run ever," said Brion. "He never started in Ireland. We were just going to give him a race at Great Meadow."
"I rode him out every day while I was at James'. and even though he'd never run, I thought he'd be a horse for America. It looks like that will pay off," said Brion.
Brion said that, depending upon what the fall steeplechase season looks like in his country, that if, due to Covid-19, racing is limited, that they might take some horses to race in Ireland and England.
J. J. Gillam saddled Turks Head Turf's Elmutahid to win the third race on the Colonial carn, a $15,000, 2 mile Handicap.