Although not often replicable elsewhere and vice versa, the Saratoga form last summer of Winston C was enough to propel the 5-year-old gelding to champion steeplechaser honors for owner Hudson River Farm and Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
Trained by Harry Fry prior to his importation from Great Britain last spring, Winston C started the year with three minor hurdle victories at Wincanton, Sandown, and Kelso, but finished only fifth of seven in a novice stakes at Aintree’s Grand National meet in early April.
Winston C stayed in the novice ranks for his U.S. debut in the Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle at Percy Warner Park in Nashville on May 11. Under Tom Garner, Winston C rallied in the final yards to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind the winning City Dreamer.
Stepping up to face open company at Saratoga, Winston C dominated both the A.P. Smithwick Memorial (G1) and New York Turf Writers Cup (G1) by 3 1/2 lengths and 8 3/4 lengths, respectively. Though none of the other Eclipse finalists competed in either race, Winston C was flattered when Turf Writers Cup runner-up Gibralfaro later captured the Zeke Ferguson Memorial (G2).
Winston C was an odds-on favorite for the Lonesome Glory (G1) at Belmont Park in September, but finished a non-threatening fourth behind Surprising Soul. For the season, he compiled a mark of 8-5-1-1, $246,334.
Winston C is the ninth individual steeplechase champion and 13th division titlist trained by Sheppard since 1973. His others were Athenian Idol (1973), Café Prince (1977-78), Martie’s Anger (1979), Flatterer (1983-86), Jimmy Lorenzo (1988), Highland Bud (1989), Mixed Up (2010), and Divine Fortune (2013).
Bred in Ireland by Patrick Kelly, Winston C is by three-time Group 1 winner and multiple highweight Rip Van Winkle. He was produced by the Machiavellian mare Pitrizza, who has also reared Snow Watch, a stakes winner in Ireland on the flat.