Open a history book and start checking things. It’s not always wise, but it is fascinating. For, oh and I don’t know how long, it’s been relatively accepted that Jonathan Sheppard and Sidney Watters Jr. were the only two people to train a steeplechase champion and a flat champion in North America.
Sheppard’s horses won 13 year-end championships over jumps, led by Flatterer’s four and Café Prince’s two. Flat stars Informed Decision (2009 female sprint division) and Forever Together (2008 female turf division) added to the trainer’s Hall of Fame resume. For Watters, the jump titles came with Shadow Brook in 1971 and Amber Diver in 1963. His flat champions were Hoist The Flag (2-year-old male of 1970) and Slew O’ Gold (3-year-old male 1983). Like Sheppard, who was inducted in 1990, Watters joined racing’s Hall of Fame – way too late in 2005.
The rare dual-purpose feat deserves recognition, but Watters and Sheppard aren’t alone in that club. The roll call won’t take long, but it’s more than an exacta.
Peter Howe trained Soothsayer, the 1972 jump champion, and Proud Delta, the 1976 older filly/mare champion for main client, Montpelier.
Morris Dixon’s versatile stable included 1952 steeplechase champion Jam, and the champion sprinter of 1947 Polynesian.
And before you think the sprint/steeplechase double is unique, James E. Ryan won the 1949 sprint title with Royal Governor and the 1953 steeplechase crown with The Mast.
That’s five, with the possibility of a sixth if I can find some confirmation. Some reference guides list Hirsch Jacobs as the trainer of 1944 steeplechase champion Rouge Dragon. Others have W.G. Jones. I’m inclined to lean toward Jones based on repitition, but if it’s Jacobs he was also the man behind flat champions Stymie, Personality, Affectionally and Hail To Reason.
And that’s it. I think.
Sheppard, of course, recently announced his retirement and was even more recently honored by the New York Racing Association with the renaming of the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup as the Jonathan Sheppard Stakes at Saratoga starting this summer. Honor him, applaud him, but don’t forget the other guys.