Eclipse Awards: Steeplechase: All Gong

Eclipse Awards: Steeplechase: All Gong
Photo: Skip Dickstein
All Gong, steeplechase Eclipse Award winner.
All Gong's pedigree

Enough already. If All Gong could talk, that's what he would say. And he would have a point. The steeplechase Eclipse Award winner was victorious in two unrestricted grade I races, placed in two others, led all U.S. jumpers in earnings ($228,000), and captured the year's richest race. Those accolades would normally be enough to win the championship, but All Gong was outdone (in terms of quantity if not quality) by upstart novices Pompeyo and Yellowroad.

Quick steeplechase lesson: Because Thoroughbreds begin steeplechase careers at various ages, races are rarely restricted by birth date. Instead, the date a horse won his first jump race often is used--thereby creating a novice division. Usually in their first or second year of hurdling, novices can be compared with 3-year-olds on the flat.

In 2000, Pompeyo and Yellowroad reigned over the novices. All Gong covered the older horses.

That's why there's an argument. Or at least a discussion.

Owned by Tennessee sportsman Calvin Houghland, All Gong came to the United States from England in 1999. The son of Kris lost twice that fall, but leaped into 2000 with a stakes victory in the Coca-Cola/UPS Atlanta Cup (NSA-I) April 15. Trained in Pennsylvania by Bruce Miller, who also conditions Yellowroad, All Gong raced powerfully near the lead throughout the 2 3/8-mile test and saved enough to prevail in a stretch duel. Asked to go three miles in his next start, All Gong finished second to Pinkie Swear in the Iroquois (NSA-I) on May 13.

Miller gave his star a summer vacation, but made Oct. 28 a target.

Resurrected after a six-year hiatus, the $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) would help determine the steeplechase championship. Fellow contenders Campanile and Ninepins showed up and were no match for All Gong, who won by 3 1/4 lengths while setting a course record for 2 5/8 miles.

The performance was extraordinary. Ridden by Miller's daughter Blythe, All Gong took over on the backstretch and denied several challengers over the race's final four fences.

All Gong's ability comes from both sides of his pedigree. Kris has sired 74 stakes winners, including speedy U.S. jumper Sundin. Bonne Ile, All Gong's dam, won nearly $535,000 on the flat, including the Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT). After starting his racing life in England with John Gosden on the flat, All Gong went to jump trainer Nicky Henderson as a 4-year-old. He won three hurdle races and was sold to Houghland based on potential over firm turf (of which he saw little in his native country).

That potential was realized in 2000, though more can be expected.

"He's had all kinds of potential, but his jumping and Blythe being able to place him where she wanted has not worked out for the best," the trainer told Steeplechase Times after the Breeders' Cup win. "He's a very agile, quick horse who has learned to relax."

Of course, All Gong relaxed too much in the year's final grade I (the $100,000 Colonial Cup) and finished third behind Romantic and Campanile or his Eclipse Award race would have been a walkover.

Enough already.

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