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Breeders' Cup 2017

Aqueduct Race Course News and Notes

Rudy Rodriguez, who wrapped up his 18-year riding career with 221 winners from 3,900 starts, has gotten off to a flying start in his new career as a trainer.


On Thursday, Rodriguez saddled Chromospere to win the sixth race on the turf at Aqueduct, his second straight winner on the heels of Aegean Breeze’s victory on March 31. The 37-year-old trainer is now 2-2-1 from eight starts with earnings of $34,530.


“It wasn’t an easy decision to quit riding, but becoming a trainer had been on my mind for a long time,” said Rodriguez, who has 12 horses stabled at Aqueduct for various owners including Michael Dubb, Michael Imperio and Robert Joscleyn. “I am so appreciative of [NYRA vice-president and racing secretary] P.J. Campo giving me the stalls. New York is not an easy place to start out. I am very blessed.”


Rodriguez, who drew up around saddle horses in Mexico , followed his jockey brother, Jesus, to the United States as a teenager and soon began working for Richard Dutrow, Sr., and subsequently became the main exercise rider and sometime-jockey for Rick Dutrow. In fact, in 2008, Rodriguez scored the first and only Grade 1 victory of his riding career when he piloted longshot Frost Giant to win the Suburban at Belmont for Dutrow.


“That was definitely the highlight of my career,” said Rodriguez, who added: “Rick is a very, very good horseman. I learned so much from him and the whole family, about hard work and paying attention to what horses want to do.


“I love being around horses. I always tried my best when I was a jockey, and as a trainer I try to do the best I can. I know the owners want to see results.”


*          *          *


Trainer Tim Ice, who made quite a splash last year when he saddled Summer Bird to victories in New York’s three biggest Grade 1 races – the Belmont Stakes, the Travers, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup and onto the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top 3-year-old colt – will be shipping a string of horses from Oaklawn Park to Belmont Park next week.


“I had some success there last year, and I want to build on that and meet new clients,” said Ice, who actually was 4-for-4 in New York , having also saddled Independence War to victory in a claiming race last October. “The goal is to establish myself on the New York circuit.”


Ice will be bringing in nine horses for owner John Ed Anthony, including a pair of promising 3-year-olds in New Madrid, who is running in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby, and Graysonia, a son of Forestry who was second in a maiden race in his most recent start.  Also coming in is Two Perfect, a 2-year-old Two Punch colt owned by Dr. Leonard Blach, part of the team that campaigned 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.


Ice and the horses are scheduled to arrive Thursday morning.


“I’m anxious to get up there because I’m excited about the horses I’m bringing,” said Ice, who no longer trains Summer Bird, now in the care of Tim Ritchey along with the rest of Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman’s horses “I know it’s going to be a rebuilding year with a lot of young horses but I also know they will be competitive.”


*          *          *


Nyala Farm’s 7-year-old New York-bred turf powerhouse Banrock continues to work toward his season debut, having returned to Tom Bush’s Belmont barn in March following a winter in South Carolina . 


Thursday morning at Belmont the bay gelding breezed a half mile over Belmont Park’s main track in 50.50 looking toward a 2010 campaign similar to the one he embarked on last year, which brought him four wins from seven starts, all in state-bred company.  In three open company tries, Banrock finished second, fifth, and sixth including a nose loss to multiple graded stakes winner Presious Passion in the Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park last June. 


“He’s seven, but he’s a well-rested seven,” Bush said of Banrock.  “He’s a long horse, but really short-legged.  He’s all grass.”


Bush said Banrock would likely be pointed to the Kingston Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for New York-breds on May 30 at Belmont Park , the same spot in which he kicked off his 2009 campaign with an easy 4¾-length victory.


“He’s doing really well,” Bush said.  “I’d like to run him in the New York-bred races and I probably want to run him in something open when he’s real fresh, like we did at Monmouth last year.”


Bush added that Get Stormy, a two-time graded stakes winner on grass in 2009, was gearing up for his 4-year-old campaign but that he had no firm plans for the Stormy Atlantic colt, who breezed a half-mile at Belmont on Thursday in 49.66.   


Last fall, Get Stormy shipped to Kentucky following back-to-back wins at Saratoga in allowance and stakes company to take the Grade 3 Bryan Station at Keeneland and the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs in October and November. 


“He’s doing really well, too,” Bush said.  “I’m looking at the Fort Marcy for him (Grade 3, $100,000, 1 1/16-miles at Belmont Park on May 1), but I don’t know if we can have him ready by then.  I really need to look at the condition book – maybe we can find an overnight stake for him somewhere.” 


*          *          *

Promising Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Trappe Shot has returned to Belmont Park and will target the Grade 3, $150,000 Withers to be run on Saturday, April 24, closing weekend at Aqueduct. 


The 3-year-old Tapit colt, owned by Mill House, debuted at Saratoga Race Course on July 29, and finished fifth after stumbling at the break.  Given some time after that race, Trappe Shot broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park on February 21 by more than ten lengths, then came back to trounce four allowance foes by nearly thirteen lengths a month later.  Both Gulfstream wins came against fellow Florida-breds.


“We’re hoping to get a work into him on one of the next three mornings, depending on weather,” McLaughlin said Friday.


Returning to McLaughlin’s barn next week is Darley Stable’s Justenuffhumor, who spent the winter in Dubai following a third-place showing in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile at Santa Anita last fall.


After winning allowance races over the grass courses at both Aqueduct and Belmont last spring, Justenuffhumor captured a pair of Grade 2 turf contests at Saratoga in the Fourstardave and Bernard Baruch.


The 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor most recently ran 15th in the Grade 1 Dubai Duty Free over the Meydan grass course on March 27 while in the care of Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin. 


“He’s coming back to New York next week and we think he’ll be back with us then,” McLaughlin said.  


McLaughlin’s assistant Artie Magnuson added that Elusive Warning came out of his fourth-place effort in last Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Carter Handicap in good shape.


“That race came up a little tough, but we thought he ran well,” Magnuson said.  “We were very happy with the effort.  He could go to the Westchester (Grade 3, $100,000, 1-mile, April 30) on opening day at Belmont .”


*          *          *


Seattle Smooth, unraced since winning last year’s Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont in June, breezed at Aqueduct on Thursday in preparation for her 5-year-old debut.


The daughter of Quiet American covered four furlongs on the main track in :48.88, which was the quickest of six moves over the distance. Seattle Smooth breezed three times at Palm Meadows earlier this year.


“She’s training very well, and I couldn’t be happier with her,” said trainer Tony Dutrow of Seattle Smooth, who is currently riding a five-race winning streak. “She’s as good as I’ve ever had her.”


Dutrow said Seattle Smooth could return to the races in “about a month,” but no decision on where she’ll make her comeback will be made until after he consults with owners Ernest Moody and Mercedes Villa of Mercedes Stables, LLC. Following her 2010 debut, the bay could defend her title in the Phipps, which is scheduled for June 12.


“I haven’t talked to her owners, but the Phipps is a definite possibility,” Dutrow said. “It’s a Grade 1 race, and she’s already in New York .”


*          *          *


The Todd Pletcher-trained Hour Glass, who has hit the board in all seven of her lifetime starts, is among a half-dozen fillies and mares likely for the 56th running of the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday, April 17.


According to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, also being pointed to the seven-furlong race are Matchless Orinda, runner-up in the Grade 3 Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream on February 27; Strut the Canary, 5-2-1 from nine starts in the mid-Atlantic; Tar Heel Mom, who has a pair of seconds and one third in three starts in graded company in Florida this year; Thunders Dove, third in the Grade 2 Inside Information at Gulfstream Park in her most recent start, and either multiple graded stakes winner Justwhistledixie or recent allowance winner Sheikh’s Serenade from the barn of Hall of Famer Bill Mott.




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