01/05/2018 12:10PM

2017 Eclipse Awards: All the Way Jose

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From minor handicaps to Grade 1 races, All the Way Jose was part of the 2017 steeplechase season from start to finish in 2017.

All the Way Jose ran in four consecutive Grade 1 races in the summer and fall and won his first race at that level in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory Handicap on Sept. 21 at Belmont Park. For the season, All the Way Jose is a finalist for the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding steeplechaser of 2017.

All the Way Jose won 2 of 7 starts in 2017 and was second or third in four races, including the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Handicap at Saratoga in August and the Grade 1 Grand National at Far Hills in New Jersey in October.

Owned by Buttonwood Farm and trained by breeder Jonathan Sheppard, All the Way Jose began the year in lesser races in spring, finishing third in a handicap hurdle in Columbus, N.C. ,and second in a handicap hurdle at Percy Warner Park outside of Nashville.

All the Way Jose won a handicap hurdle at 2 1/4 miles by 15 lengths on May 27 at Fair Hill in Maryland under jockey Keri Brion, an assistant to Sheppard.

Brion, an apprentice jockey, was aboard All the Way Jose for the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Hurdle on July 27 at Saratoga, but was unseated at the sixth obstacle.

Darren Nagle took over riding All the Way Jose for the rest of the year after the National Steeplechase Association banned apprentice jockeys from riding in steeplechase races at Saratoga and Belmont Park.

With Nagle, All the Way Jose was beaten 4 3/4 lengths by Diplomat in the New York Turf Writers Handicap after leading in the final quarter-mile. The rider’s experience paid off in the Lonesome Glory Handicap. Always racing near the front in the race at 2 1/2 miles, All the Way Jose took the lead in the final mile and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Modem.

“It worked out almost exactly as we hoped,” Sheppard said that day. “He got someone to carry him the first part of the race. He jumped great. Darren gave him a very good, patient ride, and he kept going.”

For Nagle, the Lonesome Glory was his first Grade 1 win at a NYRA racetrack.

“His stride is his biggest asset, so you better use it,” he said of All the Way Jose.

He paid tribute to Brion after the race. “She does a lot of the work with him,” he said.

All the Way Jose nearly had a second Grade 1 in the Grand National. Ridden by Nagle, All the Way Jose set the pace in the race at 2 5/8 miles and came over the last obstacle dueling with Mr. Hot Stuff and Modem. The three ran to the finish together, with Mr. Hot Stuff finishing a nose in front of Modem, who was a nose ahead of All the Way Jose in the best finish of the year in the steeplechase division.