When contenders for champion steeplechaser of 2011 were announced, Irvin S. Naylor was assured he would take home the Eclipse Award statuette because he owned all three finalists.
The winner was Black Jack Blues, in 2011 an 8-year-old Irish-bred gelding who outpolled Naylor-owned Tax Ruling and Decoy Daddy. He captured 137 first-place votes out of 248 cast with Tax Ruling the nearest contender with 80 votes. The rest getting some support were Decoy Daddy, Divine Fortune, Lake Placid, and Sermon of Love, who all got one vote apiece. Twenty-seven voters abstained from voting in this category.
In 2011 Black Jack Blues tallied five wins from eight starts and earnings of $200,949, surpassing all others in both categories. Black Jack Blues began the campaign in Great Britain and Ireland, winning half of his six starts for trainer Rebecca Curtis. Purchased by Naylor and brought to the U.S. for an autumn campaign, Black Jack Blues led throughout for an impressive 41⁄4-length triumph in a restricted stake at Glenwood Park in Middleburg, Va., in the care of trainer Joseph Delozier III shortly after his arrival.
Three weeks later the gelding faced the stiffest test of his career when he went up against 13 other top jumpers in the $250,000 Grand National at Far Hills, N.J., Oct. 22. With the course softened by rain for the year’s richest steeplechase, which has a grade I designation from the National Steeplechase Association, Black Jack Blues jumped on the lead throughout under rider Ross Geraghty. With only half the field completing the 25⁄8-mile test, Black Jack Blues was an easy seven-length winner over Organisateur, another Irish-bred owned by Naylor.
Plans for Black Jack Blues to seek his second consecutive NSA grade I win went awry when the gelding developed a cough and was withdrawn from the Nov. 19 Colonial Cup, which was won by Tax Ruling.
A son of Definite Article bred in Ireland by B.J. Griffiths, Black Jack Blues did not make his first start until 2009 at age 6 and has rewarded his connections for their patience. Through 2011 he had won or placed in 15 of 22 career starts, with earnings of $249,256. Eight of Black Jack Blues’ 10 wins and $243,251 of his bankroll have been earned in jump events.