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Good Night Shirt

Good Night Shirt last jump 3za.jpg

Good Night Shirt, Willie Dowling up (Tod Marks photo)
Good Night Shirt
Induction Year: 
2017
Foaled: 
2001
Breeder: 
Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Bowman
Owner: 
Harold A. "Sonny" Via, Jr.; Riverdee Stable
Trainer: 
Jack O. Fisher; Elizabeth Hendricks
Sire: 
Concern
Dam: 
Hot Story
Damsire: 
Two Punch
Career Years: 
2004-2009
Starts: 
33
First: 
14
Second: 
5
Third: 
3
Earnings: 
$1,041,083.00

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Bio

One of the most dominant steeplechasers in the annals of American racing, Good Night Shirt thrived at the highest level of competition during consecutive Eclipse Award-winning campaigns as he built a legacy draped in historical significance.

 

One of only three steeplechasers to earn more than $1 million — along with Hall of Fame members Lonesome Glory and McDynamo — Good Night Shirt won the first of his back-to-back Eclipse Awards in 2007 as a 6-year-old. The following year he was even better, winning all five of his starts while running exclusively in Grade 1 company and setting the single-season earnings record of $485,520. When he was retired in 2009, Good Night Shirt sported a combined flat and jump racing ledger of 14-5-3 from 33 starts and earnings of $1,041,083.

 

“What a ride he took us on. To be fortunate enough to be associated with a horse the quality of Good Night Shirt was truly a blessing,” said his owner, Harold A. “Sonny” Via, Jr. “You don’t see ones like him come along very often. Good Night Shirt was my once-in-a-lifetime horse.”

 

A chestnut gelding by Concern out of the Two Punch mare Hot Story, Good Night Shirt was bred in Maryland by Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Bowman. Originally owned by Riverdee Stable and trained by Elizabeth Hendricks, Good Night Shirt broke his maiden in his fifth career flat start on Aug. 7, 2004 at Pimlico Race Course. He won once more on the flat that year prior to being sold to Via, who sent him to trainer Jack Fisher as a steeplechase prospect.

 

Good Night Shirt began his jumping career as a 4-year-old in 2005. He finished third in his debut before breaking his maiden in his subsequent race at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn. Via and Fisher remained patient as Good Night Shirt won only once in his next nine starts and hardly seemed destined for greatness. There were, however, glimpses of potential, as he finished second in a pair of graded stakes during this time.

 

The breakthrough finally occurred for Good Night Shirt when he won the Grade 3 David L. Zeke Ferguson Memorial Hurdle on July 16, 2006 at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va. He finished second in his 6-year-old debut the following year before taking his game to the next level with back-to-back Grade 1 victories in the Iroquois Hurdle at Percy Warner (defeating standouts Sur La Tete and McDynamo) and the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park under new regular rider Willie Dowling.

 

After finishing fourth to McDynamo in the Grand National at Far Hills, N.J., Good Night Shirt closed out his campaign in style by winning his third Grade 1 of the year in the Colonial Cup at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., again defeating McDynamo (finishing sixth) in the process. With three Grade 1s to his credit and record seasonal earnings of $314,163, Good Night Shirt won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Steeplechase Horse.

 

He was even better in 2008.

 

In one of the most sensational campaigns in the National Steeplechase Association’s history, Good Night Shirt registered Grade 1 wins in the Georgia Cup, Iroquois, Lonesome Glory, Grand National and Colonial Cup. He set a track record in the Lonesome Glory — covering the 2½ miles in 4:24.88 — and was an easy selection for his second Eclipse Award.

 

“Not one problem,” Fisher told The Steeplechase Times in discussing Good Night Shirt’s perfect 2008 campaign. said. “We just put him on the van and went to the races — no temperature, no pulled shoes, no drama. He’s laid back. Whatever you want to do, he’ll do it. That’s really important. Other horses had the talent, but they were hard on themselves. He’s not that hard on himself.”

 

Good Night Shirt began his 8-year-old campaign in 2009 having won six in a row and eight of his past nine races and looked primed for even more success. He opened the season with a victory in the Grade 2 Carolina Cup at Camden that seemed to foreshadow continued greatness. The Carolina Cup, however, proved to be the final career victory for Good Night Shirt. Hopes of a third consecutive Eclipse were dashed when the champion finished second in the Iroquois in his next start. An ankle injury, which required surgery, convinced Via to retire his great jumper after a remarkable run of success.

 

After losing eight of his first 10 hurdle starts, Good Night Shirt reversed the trend and won 10 of his final 14. The culmination of perseverance, patience and the development of his raw ability resulted in Good Night Shirt’s ascension to the pinnacle of the sport — a spot among the immortals in the Hall of Fame.

 

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