Divine Fortune, winner of the $250,000 Grand National Grade 1 Hurdle Stakes at the Far Hills Races (N.J.) in October, has won the 2013 Eclipse Award as Thoroughbred racing’s champion steeplechase horse.
An 11-year-old gelding (Royal Anthem—My Tombola, Northern Fling), Divine Fortune raced in the colors of leading 2013 steeplechase owner William Pape and is trained by leading 2013 trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
Divine Fortune raced seven times last year, winning an allowance race at Stoneybrook (N.C.) in April in addition to the Grand National in the fall. The Grand National was his first grade 1 win, but he also finished second in five other grade 1 races during his career, including the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Tenn.) in 2013.
He also earned the National Steeplechase Association’s Lonesome Glory Champions Award as the year’s leading earner with $207,000, which boosted his career total to $606,390, making him the eighth-highest earner in steeplechase history.
“It is fun,” Sheppard told the Daily Racing Forum of training the champion. “You get a horse who’s like part of the family after a while. His mother is turned out in the field with [35-year-old steeplechase legend] Flatterer. They really are like part of the family. My whole program is sort of geared to horses doing well as they get older, and every so often, one of them manages to do what he’s done.”
Divine Fortune is Pape’s fifth individual Eclipse winner either as sole owner or co-owner. Preceding Divine Fortune were Athenian Idol (1973), Martie’s Anger (1979), Hall of Fame member Flatterer (1983-1986), and Mixed Up (2009).
All of his champions have been trained by Racing Hall of Famer Sheppard, who’s trained nine individuals to a total of 13 Eclipse Awards.