01/05/2017 2:40PM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Scorpiancer

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Barbara D. Livingston
Scorpiancer finishes third in the New York Turf Writer's Handicap at Saratoga.

For much of his career, both in Europe and the United States, Scorpiancer has been an underachiever.

He went through the sales ring three times, the last when he sold for $309,000 at the Brightwells Cheltenham Sale in March 2014. He subsequently went just 1 for 5, his lone victory a maiden hurdle against weak competition during the winter meet at Ludlow Racecourse in England.

Puzzled by the horse’s performances, Michael Hankin and Charlie Noell, who race as Bruton Street-US, decided to turn Scorpiancer over to trainer Jack Fisher, a perennial leader on the National Steeplechase Association circuit, and bring the gelded son of the Irish stallion Scorpion to America in 2015.

Scorpiancer, then 6, responded well to the change of scenery. After finishing fourth racing on the flat at Suffolk Downs, Scorpiancer won by daylight in a ratings hurdle and the $100,000 Foxhill Champion Hurdle for novices at Far Hills in October 2015.

“I don’t know what was wrong with him,” Fisher said about Scorpiancer after the win at Far Hills. “He didn’t look well when he got here. I haven’t done anything – put a tongue tie on him, that’s about all.”

:: Eclipse Awards: 2016 finalists with profiles

Scorpiancer’s promising start to his American jumping career didn’t follow a smooth path in 2016. Throughout his first five starts this year, Scopiancer seemed content to settle for small pieces of the purses. He was a distant second to Rawnaq in the Grade 3 Temple Gwathmey and a well-beaten fourth behind Rawnaq in the Grade 1 Iroquois during the spring.

After getting a break, Scorpiancer ran well to finish second, beaten a length, in the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga in early August, but regressed when a lackluster third three weeks later in the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers.

“I thought the last race was very disappointing,” Fisher said before Scorpiancer’s next start in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park. “I was not happy. I don’t know what happened.”

This time, Scorpiancer did not disappoint. Sent off as the 3-5 favorite, Scorpiancer rallied from seventh to win the 2 1/2-mile Lonesome Glory by 2 1/2 lengths. Sean McDermott rode him in the Lonesome Glory after Scorpiancer’s regular rider, Connor Hankin, Michael Hankin’s son, reported for duty with the U.S. Marines less than two weeks before the race.

Scorpiancer completed his 7-year-old campaign by finishing second, beaten three-quarters of a length by the season’s most dominant jumper, Rawnaq, in America’s richest steeplechase, the Grade 1, $350,000 Grand National at Far Hills.

Although Scorpiancer won just 1 of 7 starts, his four second-place finishes and one third enabled him to earn $217,600, the second-best figure among National Steeplechase Association horses.