AIKEN - Matthew McCarron was having a bad day until a streak of luck got him a second chance in the featured race Saturday at the 35th annual Aiken Steeplechase.
McCarron held a comfortable lead in The G.H. Bostwick race on Fortnightly before tumbling over the 13th and final fence. The jockey fell out of contention but was unharmed, as was the 6-year-old horse.
"I had a little misfortune," he said. "I had high hopes, but he got a little tired. Luckily, neither of us got injured."
Then an estimated 35,000 spectators crowded Ford Conger Field and watched McCarron mount Devil's Reach in the Regions Bank Imperial Cup, the day's featured race.
Robert Massey, the 7-year-old horse's regular rider, was in Virginia with the horse's trainer, Jimmy Day.
"Luckily, they gave me the shot to ride him," McCarron said. "He's (Devil's Reach) a dream to ride. I got another chance. It was pure luck."
Using the same strategy as he did with Fortnightly, McCarron raced out to the early lead on Devil's Reach. He maintained that margin through the 13th fence, which he cleared with Commanders Palace and Brown Lad charging close behind.
Devil's Reach opened the gap down the stretch for the victory.
"He was clearing the jumps flawlessly," said McCarron, who has won two races in the past as a substitute on Devil's Reach. "That's what got him the win. I didn't think there was any natural speed out there. I wanted to get off to a sharp start."
McCarron wasn't the only jockey to get back on successfully after a spill. Michael Traurig took a fall on Gold City at the 12th fence in The James W. Maloney.
In the next race, The G.H. Bostwick, Traurig rode Negative Love to a victory, overtaking McCarron's Fortnightly at the 13th fence.
Craig Thornton claimed first-place finishes in both his events. The jockey rode Natty Boh to victory in The James W. Maloney and followed with a win in The Budweiser Cup on Electron.
In The Budweiser Cup, Thornton overtook Thomas Foley's Crowned Crane at the 11th fence and held Gus Brown's Ethical Action down the stretch to secure the victory.
"He's a nice horse," said Thornton, who won on Electron last year in Florida. "I took control of the race when I needed to. After that, I concentrated on getting a nice lead to hold on to, and fortunately I did that."
The W.C. Jackson (one mile on flat turf)
1. Jimgle Bell 1:35, James Carroll (jockey), Thomas J. Walsh (trainer), Never Better Stables (owner)
2. Deputy Jake
The James W. Maloney (two and one-fourth miles)
1. Natty Boh 4:33 3/5, Craig Thornton (jockey), Katherine Nelson (trainer), Move Up Stables & Nancy Jane Reed (owner)
2. Tarzan D'Monkeyman
3. Wild Niner
The G.H. Bostwick (two and one-fourth miles)
1. Negative Love 4:28 3/5, Michael Traurig (jockey), Kevin Pallister (trainer), Glenview Farm (owner)
2. Irish Prime
3. Try N'Guess
The Budweiser Cup (two and one-fourth miles)
1. Electron 4:18 1/5, Craig Thornton (jockey), John K. Griggs (trainer, owner)
2. Ethical Action
3. Crowned Crane
The Regions Bank Imperial Cup (two and one-fourth miles)
1. Devil's Reach 4:28, Matthew McCarron (jockey), Jimmy Day (trainer), S. Bruce Smart Jr. (owner)
2. Commanders Palace
3. Brown Lad
The Ford D. Conger (two and one-fourth miles)
1. Woods Landing 4:21, David Bentley (jockey), Ricky Hendriks (trainer), Mrs. George M. Sensor
2. Seminole Spirit
Reach Patrick Green at (803) 648-1395.