Throughout the ages, pillow talk has lost and won wars, sunk battleships, won elections–and on Oct. 30, it almost lost Matt McCarron two races at the Aiken Fall Races, Aiken S.C.–almost!
In the featured race, the $20,000 Regions Bank Holiday Cup allowance hurdle, McCarron, on Erin Go Bragh, just beat his girlfriend, Danielle Hodsdon, on Man O’Mystery, because she knew exactly how quirky his horse was. And in the maiden hurdle, the only reason he beat Hodsdon again was because he was lucky enough to be on the faster horse.
“I’ve got to stop talking about the horses I ride with her,” said McCarron, with a laugh. “She’s using that information against me.”
McCarron knows Erin Go Bragh, owned by Brigadoon Stable and trained by Doug Fout, well and said he’s a royal pain in the posterior. “He’s a cheeky, quirky horse with loads of talent,” he said. “He runs his eyeballs out in every race, but if he gets to the lead too soon, he’ll pull himself up–literally stop running. In a race it just becomes an issue of waiting to make your move as long as possible.”
Highwater Mark (Calvin McCormack) set the early pace, and McCarron settled Erin Go Bragh in behind him. Hodsdon, on Man O’Mystery, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, tracked them. But Hodsdon had to go to the front earlier than she wanted. Her mount is a nervous type, and as he started finding his rhythm in the race, his jumping grew bolder and bolder and carried him past the pack. Hodsdon didn’t want to take a hold of him, in case it made him nervous, so she inherited the lead.
“She knew I couldn’t come by her too soon, so she just waited until I went to her,” said McCarron. “I went to the last fence in front, he pinged it, I slapped my reins at him and straight up came that head and he tried to pull-up.”
Knowing his quirky horse wouldn’t respond to the whip, McCarron had to “coax” him across the finish line with a hand ride.
“I tried to bait Matt’s horse by me, two fences from home,” said Hodsdon, with a grin. “I wanted him to go by me, because then I knew I could make a run at him. I almost got him too. I just ran out of racetrack.”
McCarron concurred that his girlfriend would have won if the finish line had been pushed a little further away. “She came flying by me at the end; I just got lucky with that win,” he said.
McCarron got lucky again in the maiden hurdle, which he won on Kinross Farm’s Jack’s Own Time. Hodsdon, though, knew he was the horse to beat without any pillow talk at all as the chestnut gelding won the $20,000 flat race at the International Gold Cup (Va.) at the beginning of October over a quality field.
Jack’s Own Time jumps well, but the inexperienced hurdler had a “little trouble running and jumping at Aiken,” said McCarron. “He’ll improve a lot off that run.”
Once again Hodsdon, on Sweeps Week, went to the lead before McCarron. “I moved a little too soon,” she said ruefully. “I knew Matt’s horse was fast so I kicked on. My horse is a one-pace horse, and I just hoped he’d hold on. We just got caught for speed.”
According to McCarron, Jack’s Own Time was “all out to get Dani’s horse. He was so legless tired we almost fell at the last jump, but lucky enough for me he was just the faster horse in the stretch.”
Hodsdon’s day could have been a frustrating one since finishing second to a boyfriend twice is a lot of humble pie to taste, but Storm Touch came through for her in a big way.
Owned by Calvin Houghland and trained by Sheppard, Storm Touch is another quirky horse who hasn’t really shown the world what his princely breeding suggests he should. But at Aiken, he walloped the conditioned claiming hurdle field by a winning margin of 241