Page 65 - The Hunt - Spring 2019
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 “He h“ad has
a second sense about what the horses are capable of doing.”
horses. “He has a dedication to his horses, a second sense about what the horses are capable of doing,” she says. “He lets the horses dictate how he would train them.”
To Sheppard, horses are creatures with distinct personalities. As with raising children, patience and kindness are essential. “I try to treat them all as individuals, rather than put them into a pre-arranged program,” he says. “To get the best of the horse, you have to bring out his best.”
Sheppard’s strategy includes not pushing horses when they’re too young and turning out mounts before races so they relax.
He believes matching horses with other talented steeds brings out the best in both. “I teach them stamina, which is important if you’re going three miles over jumps,” he says. “Don’t go off too fast so you’ll save a little bit at a stretch.”
Each morning, he rises at 5 a.m. at his farm in Chester County, where a dairy barn built in the 1800s is now a stable for horses. “I don’t have an alarm clock,” he says. “I just wake up.”
He’s trained scores of great horses, including Hall of Famer Café Prince, two-time Colonial Cup winner and the Eclipse Award winner in 1977 and 1978; and Flatterer, another Hall of Famer and winner of four consecutive Colonial Cups and the 1986 Radnor National Hunt Cup under a record 176 pounds.
His longevity is reflected in his streak at Saratoga, scoring wins at the meeting for 47 consecutive years, a record unrivaled in American racing.
Sheppard’s breeding program ensures a steady supply of talent to guide to the winner’s circle. “As long as I have mares spinning them out, I will have horses to train,” he says. —Eileen Smith Dallabrida
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