Steeplechase jockey Darren Nagle was issued a three-day suspension as a result of reckless riding during a $65,000 allowance optional claiming race on Aug. 2 at Saratoga Racecourse (N.Y.). After a hearing, New York state steward Carmine Donofrio and Braulio Baeza, the New York Racing Association steward, gave Nagle a three-day race ban and a $1,000 fine.
Irish-born Nagle, now based in Glyndon, Md., was riding the Jonathan Sheppard-trainee, The Price Of Love.
“The second time down the backside, in between the two fences, Danielle Hodsdon [riding Memorial Maniac] was on his inside, and he stuck his elbow out, is what he did. It was very clear to anyone who was watching the race,” said Bill Gallo, Director of Racing for the National Steeplechase Association.
“It was quite an egregious mistake of judgment that he made. The stewards in New York are just not going to tolerate that type of riding,” Gallo continued. “He impeded her. He blatantly stuck his elbow out into Hodsdon, and then he took away her ground to the next fence. He didn’t want her to come up the inside. He very nearly forced her through the wing [of the fence].”
Hodsdon finished third in the race; Nagle came in fourth.
Nagle explained that he was reacting to Hodsdon’s move. “Coming into the backstretch, I was down on the inside and I was getting ready to angle to the outside, just to start making a bit of a forward move and getting into the race,” said Nagle. “Just when I was about to do that, the 3 or 4 horse in front of me—they were also on the inside of me, but in front—they started to angle out as well. So I switched back to the inside, because there seemed to be more room to go that way.
“The next thing I know, I feel something bumping into the back of my horse. And it threw his hind end out to the right a bit. Someone just ran into the back of him and was trying to force their way up my inside.”
Nagle said the move unbalanced his horse a little bit. “I didn’t actually know who it was, but I thought it was kind of a rude thing to do on the racetrack,” he said. “You know, everybody who rides, we’re all kind of friends—we do this every day of the week. If someone’s down on my inside and they’re stuck, all they have to do is give me a shout and let me know they’re there, and I’ll give them a bit of room. But [Danielle Hodsdon] just decided she was going to force her way up my inside, which is kind of rude.”
He said the incident looked worse on camera than it felt. “It was like an impulse reaction. I just stuck my hand out a little bit, saying, ‘I kind of disapprove of what you’re doing.’ It wasn’t against Danielle Hodsdon—I didn’t even know it was her, but it was very ignorant on her part to be doing something like that. Obviously I showed my disappreciation for the whole thing. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t going to let her go up my inside and lose my position.”
The three-day suspension will actually put Nagle out for three weeks, as steeplechasing is only held on Thursdays during the Saratoga meet.
“It was the [stewards’] decision and there’s obviously nothing I can do about that. It’s obviously very disappointing,” said Nagle. “To be sitting on the sideline for the next three weeks is not ideal, but at the same time, there are worse things going on in the world. I’ll be back [soon] and hopefully we can anchor on. You’ve just got to keep going forward.”