The Steeplechase division was a wide-open category in 2013 as no single jumper landed more than one grade I event during the season. Selecting a winner among the three finalists was an exercise in determining who had the best overall campaign and who showed up on the sport's biggest day.
Keeping top company all year long while landing the Grand National Hurdle Stakes (NSA-I) was William L. Pape and Jonathan Sheppard's Divine Fortune. The then 10-year-old gelding is a son of Royal Anthem out of the Northern Fling mare My Tombola. The Eclipse winner was bred in Pennsylvania by Pape and Sheppard.
Divine Fortune made seven starts during the season, winning twice with one second and one third. He made six starts in NSA-I company, starting with a second-place finish, beaten just a neck by Demonstrative, in the Iroquois Steeplechase Stakes at Percy Warner near Nashville, Tenn. He then ran third Aug. 1 in the A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. Off the board two times in late summer, he showed his true colors at Far Hills, N.J., with a wire-to-wire win in the Grand National by an impressive 51/2 lengths.
Since the inception of the Eclipse Awards in 1971, Sheppard has trained eight Eclipse Award-winning steeplechasers that have now amassed 12 statues including William L. Pape's four-time winner Flatterer. His last winner came in 2009 with Pape's Mixed Up.
The votes below represent only first-place votes from members of the consolidated voting entities, NTRA, Daily Racing Form, and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters:
Divine Fortune, 112; Italian Wedding, 27; Gustavian, 25; Alajmal, 21; Mr. Hot Stuff, 12. Voter Abstentions, 52.