Horse racing doesn't produce much better feel-good stories
than Monday's fourth race. Danni
Hodsdon, who rides first call for Jonathan Sheppard's steeplechase runners,
convinced the trainer to enter Sermon of Love in a flat race and then begged
him to ride. Well, you know the rest of
the story - they won!
The bettors didn't believe that they would because the
six-year-old gelding had never raced on the flat before. In addition, Hodsdon had never ridden in a Saratoga race without
hurdles. "Everything comes up so much faster on the flat. These are the best riders in the country,"
the jockey said, clearly pleased that she won.
Sermon of Love had started 23 times over jumps and finished
13 times in the money. But since it was
his first start on the flat, he had qualified to run as a maiden. "I just kept to the outside, began niggling
him a bit on the turn, and he sustained his bid to the wire," Hodsdon said
afterward. A winsome graduate of Shenandoah University, she conducted her exit interview
expertly, as if broadcasting will be her next calling.
A week ago Sunday, Hodsdon's mount was compromised by a
runaway horse in one of the steeplechase races the track runs on Preview Day
and she fell to the ground ceremoniously.
She wasn't hurt, but the fall was jarring. In the race immediately
following her victory on Monday, C.C. Coco put Kent Desormeaux on his keister
in the post parade and caused a five minute delay. Accidents happen, but this wasn't a serious
one either. The day before yesterday, a horse in the first race flipped over in
the paddock, knocked his head on the ground and killed himself.
On a more positive note, Quality Road made a successful return
after convalescing from quarter cracks that kept him from the Kentucky Derby as
the favorite. Now trained by Todd
Pletcher, the handsome bay colt looked the picture of wealth in the paddock and
like a pin-up boy in his winner's circle photo.
Oh, by the way, the 1:13.45 that it took Quality Road to rumble 6 ½ furlongs in
the Amsterdam Stakes set a new Saratoga
The ninth race made it a good day for a local man, too. Vince
Bonanni, one of the many Saratoga
residents involved in a horse partnership, got to present the winning trophy to
Pin Oak Stable when Strike Again won a race named after a horse that he
owned. The ninth was the Tap the Admiral
Stakes. Tap the Admiral campaigned in
the silks of Pont Street Stable of Stan Etinger. But only true fans, and Bonanni,
still remember him. Maybe after today, there'll be more.