JONATHAN Sheppard, a former leading trainer on the flat and over jumps in America, died last Sunday. He was 82 and had been suffering from Lyme Disease.
Born in Britain, where his father was a senior racing official, Sheppard rode in point-to-points before moving to the US where he also rode and then became a trainer.
He trained 11 individual Eclipse Award winners, headed by Flatterer, who some regard as one of the best American jumpers of all time.
Flatterer won four Horse of the Year title between 1983 and 1986, and finished second to See You Then in the 1987 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Around the same time, Sheppard trained Café Prince to win the American Grand National. That horse, like many of Sheppard’s charges, was owned by George Strawbridge, who still owns many very good flat horses in Europe today.
Sheppard and Strawbridge combined to win two Breeders’ Cup races on the flat. They won the 2008 Filly and Mare Turf with Forever Together and the 2009 Filly and Mare Sprint with Informed Decision.
But perhaps the most influential horse Sheppard trained was Storm Cat. That colt just missed out on a Breeders’ Cup win but went on to become a top stallion and sire of Giant’s Causeway.
Sheppard trained at least one winner at Saratoga for 47 years and, following the trainer’s retirement in 2021, the New York Racing Association named a Grade 1 hurdle race at Saratoga after him.
Keri Brion took over the running of the Sheppard stable and she was the leading trainer over jumps in 2022 by earnings.
“’Thank you’ simply isn’t enough,” Brion wrote on Tuesday morning. “Rest in peace to a true legend. I will carry on your methods to the very best of my ability. I’m so grateful for all you taught me.”
Sheppard is survived by his wife of 33 years, retired jockey Cathy Montgomery Sheppard, and three children from previous marriages.