09/25/2010 4:47PM

Sheppard notches 1,000th steeplechase victory

Deja Puglisi/EQUI-PHOTO
Arcadius clears a jump on his way to victory in the Helen Haskell Sampson Stakes.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Jonathan Sheppard reached a significant milestone Saturday at Monmouth Park, getting his 1,000th steeplechase training victory when Arcadius took the Grade 1, $100,000 Helen Haskell Sampson Stakes.

“One thousand wins means I’ve done something nobody else has done,” said Sheppard, a Hall of Fame trainer. “I knew I was in range, but I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to get there until next year. Thankfully, everything has fallen into place this year, and we’ve gotten a little lucky.”

Sheppard left little to chance, running two top contenders in the Sampson. Sermon of Love, winner of a pair of stakes at Saratoga including the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Handicap, wound up last in the seven-horse field after chasing the pace.

Arcadius, runner up in the Turf Writers, came through. He relentlessly wore down the pacesetting Slip Away to win by a length.

“The best thing about this horse is that he stays well, and I thought if he was at the leaders and got a good last jump, he would be okay,” Sheppard said.

The win also vindicated the decision by jockey Brian Crowley who opted off Sermon of Love following the Turf Writers victory to ride Arcadius.

“I ride this horse every morning, I’m with him for his schooling,” Crowley said. “He placed in two Grade 1 races and now wins this. He’s been feeling like a million dollars.”

The 17-10 favorite, Arcadius, a 6-year-old gelding, was clocked in 4:37.55 for about 2 1/2 miles.

The Sampson was the top event of Monmouth Park-Meridian Steeplechase Festival that blended jumping and flat races to support a local charity.

Meanwhile on the flat, Sweet Ducky ($16.20) won the $100,000 Garden State Stakes for 2-year-olds, beating Curlinello by a half-length.

It was the second win in three starts for Sweet Ducky who stretched out for the first time.

“We kind of always knew this horse wanted to go long,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “He’s bred for it. Nearing the wire, he started waiting on the other horse. He likes to play around.”

Joe Bravo was aboard as Sweet Ducky ran the one mile in 1:39.83.