NSA Champions crowned

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The 2008 season ended with a slew of exciting equines capturing divisional crowns. That excitement should carry over well into 2009, as all but one of the winning horses will be back in training next year.

Leading Horse: Good Night Shirt.
5 races, 5 wins. $485,520 in earnings.

Sonny Via's champion defended his crown in dominant fashion, going a perfect 5-for-5 in Grade I stakes and shattering the NSA single-season earnings record he set last year at $314,163. The 7-year-old son of Concern was brilliant from start to finish, annexing the Georgia Cup and Iroquois in the spring and then returning in the fall to take the Lonesome Glory, Grand National and Colonial Cup. The Jack Fisher trainee is odds-on to claim his second consecutive Eclipse Award in January.

Timber Champion: Bubble Economy.
8 races, 3 wins, 2 thirds. $110,250 in earnings.

Arcadia Stable's 2004 champion rolled to a second timber title thanks to great days at Great Meadow, where he won the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup in May and the $50,000 International Gold Cup in October. In between those scores, the durable 9-year-old old picked up checks all around the timber circuit, capping his campaign with a November victory at Camden that helped him set a new single-season earnings record.

First-Year Novice Champion (horses that started 2008 as a maiden over jumps): The Price Of Love.
7 races, 3 wins, 1 second, 2 thirds. $122,792 in earnings.

The Bill Pape-Jonathan Sheppard connection sent out another good looking prospect in this 5-year-old son of Prenup, who built some momentum in the spring before putting things together in the fall. The Price Of Love broke his maiden in his seasonal debut at Camden in March and finished third in the Grade II National Hunt Cup at Radnor in May. He really got rolling at Saratoga, winning a pair of novice stakes (the Jonathan Kiser in July and the Mickey Walsh in August). He added to his bankroll during the fall, finishing fifth in the novice stakes at Monmouth Park and third in the Grade I AFLAC Championship at Callaway Gardens.

Second-Year Novice Champion (horses that broke their maiden over jumps in 2007): Be Certain.
8 races, 2 wins, 5 seconds. $168,138 in earnings.

Runner-up for the 3-year-old crown in 2007, the son of Thunder Gulch showed no signs of a sophomore jinx in 2008, winning a pair of races in the spring, including the National Hunt Cup over 2007 novice champion and stablemate Planets Aligned. Trainer Tom Voss and Alnoff Stable set their sights on bigger things at Saratoga, and Be Certain hardly disappointed, running second to Dark Equation in the Grade I New York Turf Writers against open company. After being headed out for the win in the Monmouth County novice stakes, he again fared well in open company, finishing a game second to Good Night Shirt in the Grand National at Far Hills.

Filly/Mare Champion: Guelph.
6 races, 4 wins, 1 second. $123,424 in earnings.

Guelph heads off to retirement with a second filly/mare title thanks to a win over males in the Palm Beach Stakes this past weekend. Filly/mare and novice champion in 2005, The Fields Stable's homebred dominated the distaff division in 2008, beginning in May with stakes scores in the Henley at Nashville and the Valentine at Fair Hill. The 7-year-old daughter of Sky Classic finished fifth against the boys in the Grade II A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga and second in the Peapack at Far Hills before notching another pair of stakes victories in the season's final month.The Tom Voss trainee took the Crown Royal filly/mare stakes at Callaway and the aforementioned inaugural Palm Beach Stakes in November, and retires a seven-time stakes winner with an 8-of-15 career mark over hurdles.

Three-Year-Old Champion: Class Real Rock.
3 races, 1 win. $31,750 in earnings.

This Mede Cahaba homebred led a bevy of talented Lilith Boucher 3-year-olds and takes home the trophy based on his come-from-behind win in the $50,000 Gladstone at Far Hills. The son of Rock Point sandwiched a pair of fourth-place finishes around his Gladstone score; a maiden at Middleburg in October and the Woolfe Memorial at Camden in November.

Champion Trainer: Jack Fisher.
122 races, 26 wins, 12 seconds, 21 thirds. $1,156,907 in earnings.

Fisher defended his 2007 training crown by holding off a late charge from Tom Voss on the season's final day to notch his fourth title in six years. Fisher ruled the earnings standings as well, becoming the first steeplechase trainer to surpass $1 million in a season. Fisher's runners succeeded at every level in 2008, as his deep and versatile stable set the standard.

Champion Jockey: Xavier Aizpuru.
83 races, 22 wins, 13 seconds, 11 thirds. $527,777 in earnings.

The English-born jockey repeated as champion with another dominant performance in 2008. A talented and versatile rider, he rode favorites and longshots with the same determination, and finished the season as the leading timber rider as well.

Champion Owner: Sonny Via.
7 races, 5 wins. $487,020 in earnings.

Another repeat winner, Via rode to the title on the back of Good Night Shirt, who set a single-season NSA earnings record for the second year in a row. Via also campaigned the 3-year-old prospect Pleasant Top.