First Time on the Flat

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 course record.

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.

Recent Posts

Related Reading

More Blogs