Not every story has a fairy-tale ending, but it’s simplistic to gauge success strictly by wins and losses. Often, the reward lies in accepting the challenge and giving it your best regardless of the outcome. When champion steeplechase jockey Danielle Hodsdon accepted trainer Arch Kingsley’s invitation to ride Grade 1 winner Show Court in Thursday’s hurdle handicap at Saratoga, it marked her first mount in a sanctioned NSA race since the fall of 2016. But the opportunity to get a leg up one final time at her favorite race course — where she won four AP Smithwicks and a New York Turf Writers Cup — was a powerful inducement for an athlete who has remained fit and continues to ride full time in addition to nurturing a career outside of the sport. But none of us can control all of our circumstances and, unfortunately, Show Court and Danni finished last. But they did indeed finish. What did Danni have to say about the experience? Reflecting upon it 24 hours later, Danni’s thoughts reveal something rare in a world of tv soundbites and cliches: honest introspection — and appreciation for the profession that meant so much to her for so long. So here’s Danni in her own words.
“Obviously I would have liked a different end result. I really don’t like doing things unless I can do them well, but I had a great time regardless! I thought I might be nervous since it had been so long since I had walked into the Saratoga paddock, but I was actually just excited to be there! The race itself was frustrating as I needed to be more on my toes at the start in order to establish a better position. I knew it immediately after the flag dropped, and was frustrated throughout the race that I always had him a bit too covered up to find a good rhythm and was always trying to find room to progress without ever successfully doing so.
“Unfortunately that’s just racing and I immediately told Arch upon dismounting that my rustiness at the start cost us a potentially better trip. Regardless of all that, it felt great to be on the Saratoga turf again. It is a feeling that I took for granted in my early years and in my later years learned could never be replicated by anything else in life. I am so grateful to Arch and Mr. Buyck (Show Court’s owner) for presenting me with this opportunity. Racing was such a huge part of my identity for so much of my life and not something I ever thought I would get to experience again. I was also overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends and the racing community in the days leading up.”