Sovereign Duty is made for Steeplechase
William S. Farish Jr., from Kentucky, bred Sovereign Duty from the magnificent Nijinsky II mare, Duty Dance. With his unmistakably superior genes, everyone thought that he would become a formidable force in the flat racing arena, but that was not to be. The best Sovereign Duty could pull out the hat was a third place and career earnings of $1 919. It was clear that he would not excel in flat racing, and was put up for sale. Fortunately, trainer Jonathan Sheppard decided to take a chance on breeding, and bought Sovereign Duty with steeplechase racing in mind.
It was a great gamble on Sheppard’s behalf, buying a horse that had never won in his life. But the then three year old began to show his worth, as all he needed was to find his feet and a career that suited him better. Horse racing is often a question of finding the best horse for the specific job, and for Sovereign Duty, steeplechase racing was just the job he was looking for. Recently, Sovereign Duty showed the horse racing world that Sheppard had not made a mistake when paying $425 000 for him at the Keeneland sales.
Raking in his fourth win, under the guidance and training of Jonathan Sheppard, Sovereign Duty stunned everyone with his breathtaking victory at the Grade 1 Stakes at Keeneland, which was held on Thursday 17 April 2008. Sweet Shani, another Sheppard trained horse, seemed to have the win in the bag, as she kept the lead for most of the race. Sheppard kept his eyes on his leading mare and Best Attack, who seemed to be making a move closer to the last stretch. He almost didn’t see Sovereign Duty sneak up on the inside and start putting his saved up energy and power to good use. Sovereign Duty and Sweet Shani were neck and neck at the end, but Sovereign Duty had the upper hand over his stable mate. Xavier Azipuru, Sweet Shani’s jockey, said he didn’t mind the loss but felt heartbroken for his mare as she gave him all she could and fought all the way to the finish line.
Best Attack came in third, with Orison taking fourth place, Swimming River in fifth and Feeling Pretty in sixth position. It was a thrilling and heart stopping race that had owners, trainers and spectators at the edges of their seats. But it was satisfying to Sheppard to see the horse he took a chance on finally find his comfort zone, and announce to the horse racing industry that he has arrived.