WEXFORD Ireland--With the strict rules regarding trainers' licenses in Ireland, once Jonathan Sheppard announced his retirement in the United States, he also relinquished his training license in Ireland.
Once they learned that, the three owners with horses in Ireland, Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Moorhead's Buttonwood Farm, Irv Naylor and Ed Swyer's Hudson River Farms, as well as one owner with horses in this country, Kevin Galbraith's KMSN Stable ,transferred their horses from Sheppard as trainer to his former assistance trainer Keri Brion.
Brion holds a current U.S. trainer's license and, learning of the Irish rules pertaining licenses, applied for and received a license to train in Ireland until next April.
"The rules are strict in Ireland," said Brion. "It's quite difficult to get a trainer's license in Ireland, but a number of trainers ship their horses into Ireland for one or two races, and those trainers are granted a temporary license. I'm running horses under an American license, but I've been granted a temporary license here to train until April."
Naylor's French Light had been scheduled to run on Jan. 7 at Clonmel, but there's been a cold snap in Ireland and the ground was frozen the morning of the race, so that meet was cancelled.
Clonmel has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 19, and French Light is entered in the Novice Hurdle there.
"We think French Light will win," said Brion. "I was hoping that French Light would run in Jonathan's name, before the trainer's license was transferred, so that Jonathan could go out with a win. He had such an outstanding career, that would have been a fitting way to end it.""
HUDSON RIVER FARMS' Winston C. who won both the Saratoga G1 races, the Smithwick and the Turf Writers, in 2019, is scheduled to make his first start in Ireland in a handicap hurdle race at Navan on Saturday, Jan. 23.
Fifteen horses owned by those four owners plus one horse owned by Team Ollie were moved to Fair Hill Training Center, and Sheppard's former barn manager, Amber, Eve Ledyard, an exercise rider, and one groom who previously worked for Sheppard are there taking care of them and exercising them, all now under the supervision of Brion as trainer..
"Jonathan taught me everything I know," said Brion. "He has left an incredible legacy. I hope that I can continue to make him proud. If I could be one quarter as good a trainer as he was I would be delighted."
Brion said that she would make at least one trip back to the States to check on the horses at Fair Hill, but that, with steeplechase meets already being cancelled in this country , she might keep the string of six in Ireland a little longer than previously planned.
Those horses were scheduled to return to the States after Cheltenham meet, which runs March 16-19, but now may stay through April.