It took Matt McCarron 15 years of race riding to get to the top of his game, but all that experience paid off in the 35th running of the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup. He booted home Hirapour to take the $100,000 grade I hurdle stakes, Nov. 21, Camden, S.C., his first win in the prestigious race.
And as winning trainer Doug Fout said about McCarron’s superbly tactical ride, “Matt’s experience won that race. He waited to make his move, and he’s the best ‘waiting’ jockey there is.”
All that experience also helped McCarron become the current undisputed king of steeplechase jockeys. He dominated the National Steeplechase Association’s jockey, races-won division, ending up eight wins ahead of his nearest competitor.
By defeating the heavily favored McDynamo in the Colonial Cup, McCarron also helped push Hirapour to the fore for Eclipse Award honors. Back in April, the Irish-bred gelding won the $150,000 Royal Chase (Ky.), also a Grade I stakes, making him the only horse in the open stakes division to win more than one of the big races.
The Colonial Cup has been a proving ground for champions since its creation in 1970, and this year’s race was no exception. Five horses of the seven-horse field came to the race with champ-ionship honors hanging on the balance. McDynamo, Sur La Tete, Tres Touche, Preemptive Strike and Hirapour each had a shot at the Eclipse Award if they won.
McDynamo’s brilliant and dominating win over all those horses in the Breeders’ Cup Steeplechase (N.J.) in October made him a heavy favorite for the Cup. The horse’s staggering talent, his versatile running style, and the formidable and legendarily cool head of jockey Craig Thornton made him a tough horse to bet against. And McDynamo had won the 2003 Colonial Cup in record-breaking time to collar last year’s Eclipse Award.
Time To Strategize
So when it came time to map out strategy for the Colonial Cup, Fout and McCarron had one parameter to focus on–how to beat McDynamo?
“We knew we wanted to stay a little closer to him [than we did in the Breeders’ Cup, where Hirapour finished second]. He’s obviously a good horse, and I’m not taking anything away from that win, but I’m not sure we didn’t wait a little too long [to move there],” said Fout. “When you only get beat [by a little more than length], you look for things to change.”
So when the flag fell, McCarron jumped Hirapour off smartly, and for the first half-mile of the 23