HOLLYWOOD, S.C.--Jack Fisher and Graham Watters had both been tied for the lead in their respective divisions going into the final race meet, but Fisher saddled two winners, both ridden by Watters, at the Steeplechase At Charleston on Nov. 14 to propel them both into the lead for the win.
Fisher won the Leading Trainer, Races Won, with 17 wins to Leslie Young's 15 wins, with Keri Brion third with 13 wins, and Watters won Leading Rider, Races Won with 21 wins to Tom Garner's 19 wins with Skylar McKenna third with 12 wins..
Young had had the lead going into the final four race meets, three on the weekend of Nov. 6 and 6 and one on Nov. 14..
Young had said repeatedly that winning that title would be a huge honor and that she had a lot of horses in her barn and would race them all in order to secure the win.
And she was as good as her word, entering at least one, if not two, horses in every one races in the final four meets.
But to win, she raced all those horses, some of which had had almost no experience over jumps, with only one or two schools under their belts.
Her strategy didn't work, as she didn't win a single race in the final four meets, although luckily none of them were apparently hurt over fences.
Fisher sent out just a few horses, but they were ones that were capable of winning, so he continued his long history of winning at least one, if not both, of the trainer titles.
HE HAD said that Young winning the title would be good for the sport, and the race for the title certainly did spark interest good for steeplechasing.
Brion won the Leading Trainer, Money Won title, and Garner, who had been tied with Watters in Races Won going into Charleston, won in Jockey, Money Won.
Fisher, who has often won both in both Races and Money Won, said he'd rather win the Races Won title, because that meant success with a number of horses throughout the season, while winning in Money Won usually meant having a great deal of success with just one horse in the G1 races.
"It was great," said Watters of his Riders, Races Won title. "This is the first time I've won, and it means a lot. I had a great year, and I won my first Grade One race on Snap Decision at Nashville."
"I rode as an amateur in Ireland for four years, and then rode as a pro in the United Kingdom for six years," said Watters, now of Monkton, Md.. "I've been in this country for four years, and I have one more year on my visa. Hopefully, that visa can be renewed for another five years."
"I had a great season, capped off by winning the Rider title," said Watters. "The race for the title between Tom and me and the race for the Trainer title was exciting for spectators."
THERE WAS a new race announcer at Charleston, Craig Braddock, who did a very good job.
In steeplechase racing in England and Ireland, it's not uncommon to have up to 15 horses in a race, and announcers in those countries accurately run down the positions of each horse over every fence and comment on every mistake made by a horse, even if it's just a bobble on landing of a horse running 12th, and they report accurately on every fall, even reporting that horses and/or jockeys have gotten up after a fall.
Better announcing in this country would certainly add to the interest, and the National Steeplechase Association has been looking into finding new announcers here.
Ar Charleston, Fisher saddled Riverdee Stable's Gostisbehere to win the $20,000, 2 and 3/8 mile Ratings Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths over Peat Moss, trained by Brion, and then won with Bruton Street-US' Ghostlighter in the $25,000, 2 1/16 mile Three-Year-Old Allowance Hurdle by 2 3/4 lengths over Fast Vision (Fr), trained by Young.
"I bought Ghostlighter at the Fasig-Tiptpn July sale," said Fisher. "We ran him at Shawan just to give him a race, and then ran him again at Far Hills. But is was soft ground both times, and he's not a soft ground horse."
Fisher said he will turn out most of his horses over the winter while there is no racing but that he will hunt a few.
"City Dreamer and Brianbakescookies aren't fast enough for hurdles, so we'll hunt them this winter and see if they'll make timber horses," said Fisher."
Gearhead, owned by Kiplin Hall, trained by Willy Dowling and ridden by Jamie Bargery, won the $25,000. 2 3/8 mile Maiden Hurdle by 1 length over Westerland (GB), trained by Kathy Neilson, and Three O One, owned by Mason Hardaway Lampton, trained by Lillith Boucher and ridden by her husband Richard, won the $15,000 Maiden Claiming Hurdle by a neck over Make A Stand, trained by Mark Beecher.
Brion saddled Pleasecallmeback, ridden by Paker Hendriks, to win the Apprentice Rider Training Flat by 3/4 length over Court Rule, trained by Young and ridden by Virginia Korrell in a race marred by three horses, ridden by inexperienced riders, falling, even though it was on the flat.