Danielle Hodsdon guides the winner in the $50,000 feature.
Danielle Hodsdon and Xavier Aizpuru effectively shut down the competition at the Atlanta Steeplechase,
April 25, winning all five of the races between them.
Hodsdon won two out of the five in Kingston, Ga., in the sweltering heat of 95 degrees. She took home the lion’s share of the money with a win in the $50,000 Georgia Cup feature with William Pape’s The Price Of Love.
With three sanctioned races being run on the same day (The Maryland Hunt Cup, Queens Cup and Foxfield), entries were a little sparse, but all were good contenders. The feature scratched down from six starters to four, excellent novices that have proven themselves to be tough at the wire.
With no real speed in the race, the field barely cantered to the first fence. Hodsdon allowed her horse to take the lead. The Price Of Love, 2008 National Steeplechase Association novice champion, galloped along happily in his second outing for the season.
By the stretch Riverdee Stable’s Dictina’s Boy (Padge Whelan) was close at hand, and the two horses battled all the way to the wire for a photo finish. In the end it was The Price Of Love by a nose, and Whelan found himself a bridesmaid again, not for the first time that day.
Trained by Jonathan Sheppard, The Price Of Love was scheduled to start his spring season at Palm Beach (Fla.) on April 4, but after it was cancelled due to unsettled weather, they chose Atlanta for his debut.
Hodsdon, who was the NSA leading jockey for 2006, was pleased that the 6-year-old son of Prenup handled the run and the heat.
“I think he has matured a lot and handled being on the lead well,” Hodsdon said. “It made him a nice target for Padge’s horse, but luckily he was able to just barely hold him off. The Price Of Love is very gutsy from the last fence to the wire.”
Hodsdon, 33, said she took the lead out of necessity. “We were all literally walking to the first fence as no one wanted to go,” Hodsdon said. “So finally I decided we better at least break into a canter before we got there or mine might refuse.”
Dictina’s Boy’s owner, Sean Clancy, liked what he saw in the race.
“He ran great. We’re really proud of him,” Clancy said. “The race didn’t set up well for him and he spotted the winner a ton of experience, but he overcame it and ran a big race against, arguably, the best novice in the country.”
Clancy added, “As Padge kept saying to us, ‘He’s lost nothing in defeat.’ ”
Earlier in the day Hodsdon, of Kennett Square, Pa., won on Sheppard’s Lunar Labor over Alnoff Stable’s Ground Frost (Whelan) in the $25,000 Sport Of Kings maiden hurdle.
“Lunar Labor is a nice young homebred of Jonathan’s,” Hodsdon said. “He’s big and a little simple still, but we think he has a lot of potential.”
Aizpuru started his triple threat with a solid performance on Sheila Williams’ Rare Bush for Maryland trainer Jack Fisher, winning over Barracuda Stable’s C R’s Deputy (Robert Walsh) by more than 4 lengths in the $30,000 allowance hurdle.
But the 9-year-old son of Dynaformer is not easy. “He’s so hard on himself,” Aizpuru said. “He wants to go out in front so much it’s tough to hold him. I was delighted he did so well.”
Aizpuru’s next win was with first-time starter Stewart Strawbridge’s Twister Crossing in the $20,000 maiden claiming hurdle by a neck over Coppertree Farm’s High Approval (Whelan).
Because so many jockeys were spread out in different states for the weekend, Aizpuru picked up this outside ride for Pennsylvania trainer Sanna Neilson Hendriks and was impressed with the maiden.
“This was a nice horse,” Aizpuru said. “I am not sure I want to compete against him. He lost a little ground chipping the last, but I think that he could have won by more if not for that mistake.”
Aizpuru finished off the day with fan favorite Bear Creek Stable’s little chestnut Mark The Shark for Fisher in the $20,000 Sport Of Kings unlimited claiming hurdle.
The 10-year-old grandson of Storm Bird took his customary lead about halfway through the race and held onto it by more than a length in the stretch despite Whelan and Motel Affair’s burst of late burst of speed.
“He’s a great old horse,” Aizpuru said. “Mark The Shark is one of those cool customers. He felt so good in the race. He really tries hard for you.”
These wins put Hodsdon and Aizpuru at the top of the charts going into big money races in May. Both have started 19 times. Aizpuru has six wins so far and Hodsdon five, but she has made more money for her owners with $120,000 over Aizpuru’s $100,250.