Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2024

Hodsdon Has Her Day In Atlanta

It has been a slow start for top jockey Danielle Hodsdon this spring season. The first few southern meets have not quite panned out the way she would have liked, but she made up for it at the Atlanta Steeplechase, April 14 in Atlanta, Ga., in a big way.

Hodsdon finally put herself on the map for the year, winning three races out of six, capturing two second-placed finishes and a fourth, all for trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
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It has been a slow start for top jockey Danielle Hodsdon this spring season. The first few southern meets have not quite panned out the way she would have liked, but she made up for it at the Atlanta Steeplechase, April 14 in Atlanta, Ga., in a big way.

Hodsdon finally put herself on the map for the year, winning three races out of six, capturing two second-placed finishes and a fourth, all for trainer Jonathan Sheppard.

“It has been kind of a rough start,” Hodsdon said. “I had a few really upsetting trips. This was such a nice little pick-me-up.”

The National Steeplechase Association leading rider for 2006, Hodsdon was up against several good campaigners in the $75,000 Georgia Cup. She rode Hudson River Farm’s Seafaring Man and faced the $40,000 Little Everglades (Fla.) hurdle stakes winner Riddle, the 2005 Saratoga (N.Y.) contender Mill House Stable’s The Looper and the always tough as nails Cohiba Stable’s Mark The Shark, who entered the race with more than $140,000 to his name.

As predicted, Mark The Shark (Xavier Aizpuru) led the field with a blistering pace some 4 to 5 lengths ahead of the rest of the field. Riddle lost rider Richard Boucher around the fourth hurdle.

Hodsdon placed Seafaring Man near the back of the pack and waited for the field to tire and come back to her. Around the final turn she asked more of the son of the 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero and hooked up with Bow Strada (Chip Miller). As they galloped up the hill Bow Strada briefly took the lead, but Seafaring Man was far from done and overtook him, galloping away to win by more than 3 lengths.

“He’s a nice horse,” Hodsdon said. “He has been off for about a year and half. He’s old class and very fast in front. We sort of knew he would like the uphill stretch, and he did.”

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Hodsdon said she had her eye on Miller this time. In the first race of the day, which ended up being a very bad ride for many, Hodsdon was aboard Calvin Houghland’s Meadow, and just when she thought she had the $25,000 allowance hurdle won, Miller came out of nowhere and passed her on John Griggs’ Hip Hop, winning by more than a length.

“Chip really gave me a riding lesson in that race, I think Meadow too. I don’t think either of us saw Chip until it was too late,” Hodsdon said. “It was definitely rider error. Not the best way to start the day.”

It was an even worse start of the day for others in that race. The first horse to lose its rider was Eldon Farm’s Pukka with Jody Petty. Reflector then dropped Will Haynes at the 10th hurdle, causing Haynes’ brother’s horse Summersville (Russell Haynes) to fall, taking out Orsay (Cyril Murphy) in the process.

Only Petty suffered a serious injury in this race, getting stepped on and receiving a skull fracture and several facial lacerations. Petty underwent plastic surgery on April 18 but claimed he will be ready to ride on his favorite timber course, the Virginia Gold Cup, May 5.

Miller said he never saw the melee behind him. “One of the benefits to being all alone out in front is you miss that kind of trouble,” he said.

More Wins For Hodsdon

Hodsdon’s next win came with a favorite, Slew’s Peak, in the $20,000 Sport of Queens Filly and Mare series. The granddaughter of Seattle Slew first broke her maiden at Shawan Downs (Md.) in the $15,000 maiden hurdle for fillies and mares but since then has not quite shined as bright.

This time, Hodsdon just tracked the leaders and let the 5-year-old settle until the backstretch where she took over the lead. Mede Cahaba Stable’s Class Vigor (Boucher) tried to make a late run but had to settle for second best a length back.

Halley’s Northern Gale was third. Augustin Stables’ Imagina fell with Aizpuru, who was substituting for an injured Petty. Won Wild Bird lost jockey Will Haynes at the first fence.

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“After Shawan I think we asked too much of her,” Hodsdon said. “This was the perfect race for her. I was a little worried about Northern Gale, who was second at Camden [S.C.], and of course Imagina who had won there.”

Hodsdon added, “She’s such a big galloping filly. She probably will never have the sprint of [Kinross Farm’s] Gold Mitten, but she does stay.”

The final race of the day—and final win for Hodsdon—ended up being a match race on the flat for Jonathan Sheppard’s own Big Monty (Hodsdon) against Class Tale (Boucher), both first-time starters. Hodsdon was happy to take it easy with the newcomer until the end, when she put away Boucher’s horse by 4 lengths.

“Big Monty is a little project of ours,” Hodsdon said. “Not to be mean, but he’s very sweet but kind of simple. It was nice he got to come to the races, see what it is all about and take it really slow and did not have some huge field where he would be mentally fried by the end.”

Worth The Work

Hodsdon’s other second-placed finish came in the $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle on Baby League. They were bested by trainer Arch Kingsley Jr.’s newest acquisition, Angel Del Viento. Kingsley put Boucher up, and the first-time starter over hurdles stayed in striking distance until the wire when he surged ahead to beat Baby League by more than 2 lengths.
 
The Argentine import had five starts on the flat, winning two of those starts, but Kingsley said schooling at the farm was nothing to write home about.

“It took a really long time to get him fit,” Kingsley said. “His workouts were pretty lackluster until we put some hurdles in front of him, and he seemed to get very interested. He’s hard to keep focused so I think the
hurdles are helping. Everything seems to be coming together finally.”

Trainer Ricky Hendriks got a win for owner Susan Sensor with Corruption (Robert Massey) in the $25,000 Sport of Kings claiming hurdle over Armata Stable’s Barrington (Murphy). Gather No Moss (Michael Traurig) was third, and Hodsdon placed fourth with Deb’s Delight for trainer-owner Sheppard.

Sarah L. Greenhalgh

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