Harrisburg, PA — Sheila Napier, who works in the Chris Beaver Stable, has been named the recipient of the 2018 Caretaker of the Year Award sponsored by Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in conjunction with the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
Napier, 37, has worked for Beaver for three years, and in 2018 her horses included the $500,000-winning 3-year-old filly trotter Custom Cantab. She also had four horses that made the Ohio Sires Stakes championship card at Scioto Downs, including three in the 2-year-old filly trot. Prior to working for Beaver, Napier’s 10-year stint with Ron Potter included being the caretaker of the 2011 Little Brown Jug winner Big Bad John.
“I’ve always read about this award and this is really great,” said Napier, a native of Cincinnati whose first job working with horses came while in high school in 1995 at the Delaware (Ohio) Equine Lab. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and something I looked forward to as far as possibly getting, but maybe in Ohio and not this big.”
All caretakers in North America were eligible for the award, with nomination letters submitted detailing the skills and special qualities of the nominee. A seven-member panel — all of whom were former caretakers themselves — selected Napier as the winner.
Beaver nominated Napier, and in his letter he noted, “Sheila takes unrivaled pride in the condition of her horses. I can rest at ease when she has a horse racing. I know it will get on the road on time and will be wearing all the right equipment, even if I can’t make it.
“Her horses are never shorted on the care that I expect for them and that is required,” added the Ohio-based Beaver, who also winter trains at Spring Garden Ranch in Florida. “She can’t stay away from her horses. She truly loves them and takes incredible pride in their accomplishments. My life would be a lot easier if more grooms brought the passion into their work that Sheila has.”
Napier said she usually has at least eight horses under her care in the Beaver barn, and it was Custom Cantab who was the star in 2018. Included among Custom Cantab’s 13 wins were the Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final at Hoosier Park and the season-ending Matron at Dover Downs.
“Oh, that filly,” said Napier, whose travels always include her 11-year-old daughter Jess. “Custom Cantab is one of those special little fillies that wants to finish in the top three her whole life. She’s quite sassy, amazing and full of heart. I absolutely love that filly; she is very special.”
As winner of the HRRNP Caretaker of the Year Award, Napier will receive a cash prize of $500, transportation, hotel accommodations and two tickets to USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards banquet on Sunday (Feb. 24) at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, where she will be presented a trophy.
Napier, along with all the USHWA 2018 award winners, will be recognized during the Dan Patch Awards banquet. Information on accommodations at Rosen Shingle Creek and dinner tickets can be found at www.ushwa.net.