By Mike Kane
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y – Jonathan Sheppard was typically gracious and upbeat when his 47-year winning streak at Saratoga Race Course came to an end early Monday evening. There was no miracle on turf, no pinch-yourself storybook finish when Sheppard’s War Baby finished eighth in the final race on closing day of the 2016 meet.?
“Of course, you’d like to keep going. You know it’s not going to last forever and I didn’t have a very strong string coming up here,” he said. “There’s a lot of luck in it. We had three seconds and a couple of thirds. We were knocking at the door and some of those could have gone either way, I guess.”
Sheppard, 75, paused for a moment and smiled.
“The pressure is off now,” he said.
The Hall of Fame trainer is the most accomplished steeplechase conditioner in U.S. history had won at least one race on the flat or over jumps every summer at Saratoga since 1969. He secured his first victory at Saratoga in 1967, was blanked the following year and started his streak a few weeks after year Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.
Sheppard’s streak is believed to be the record for the 148 seasons racing has taken place in Saratoga Springs.
“I never thought about it until a little more recently when people picked up on it,” he said. “I didn’t even know about it until three of four years ago. It is pretty amazing when you think about it. I’m pretty proud to have got as far as I have.”
Sheppard’s mark is certain to last for a while. Shug McGaughey now has the longest active win streak at Saratoga: 34 years, one more than D. Wayne Lukas.