William Backer Estate Named Top ’19 Virginia Breeder; Neil Morris Named Top VA-Based Trainer

The annual Virginia Breeders Awards ceremony will be held Friday June 19 at Great Meadow, the evening before the rescheduled Virginia Gold Cup Races on June 20. The 14 award winners were announced over a two week period and can be seen by scrolling through the “News” section of this website.

Top Virginia Breeder – William Backer Revocable Estate. The Backer Estate’s 2019 resume is most impressive — a total of 21 victories, three stakes wins including a Grade I score, and $124,335 in Virginia Breeders Fund bonus monies. Out for a Spin, winner of the Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, was already named Top Virginia-Bred/Sired 3-Year-Old Filly while Ferdinanda, winner of the Brookmeade Stakes at Colonial Downs, was named Top Older Turf male. Tryon Summer captured the Nellie Mae Stakes at Colonial as well and finished second to Ferdinanda in the Brookmeade. The trio bankrolled respective purse monies of $363,610, $141,460 and $100,045 last year. Four of their other horses had multiple win seasons in 2019 — Buckys Pick, Gio Lemon, Hilltop Harmony and First Talent.

Mrs. William Backer of Smitten Farm accepts the award for 2018 Breeder of the Year.

Top Virginia-Based Trainer – Neil Morris. The English born trainer has been based in Middleburg for over 25 years now and his horses have amassed career purse earnings of $5.7 million. In 2019, he had 19 wins, 28 runner-up finishes and 30 thirds, good for a bankroll of $539,541 from 167 starts. His Dapper Dan, who was named Top Virginia-Bred Over Fences, won the Steeplethon at Great Meadow during the fall International Gold Cup card and was second in the spring edition. He also won twice each with Family Tree, Junonia, Catauga County, Shrove Tuesday and Virginia-bred Gio Lemon. Bred by the William Backer Trust, the 5-year-old Gio Ponti gelding broke his maiden at Charles Town in April then captured a claiming race at Timonium in August. Morris has had four Virginia Gold Cup winners including Zanclus in the 2018 edition. That year, Joe Clancy noted that Morris was the only trainer on the planet to have a horse win at a distance of 4 1/2 furlongs (at Charles Town) and at four miles (Gold Cup distance).

Trainer Neil Morris is shown after a win at Great Meadow. Photo by Douglas Lees.