Rudy Rodriguez hopped aboard a chestnut filly, departing his barn at the corner of East and Union Avenues on the Oklahoma Training Track late Monday morning. With his son Rudy Rodriguez Jr. on a pony by his side and two other chestnuts, the group made their way to the track for turf training, galloping around the track in a blue and yellow blur. They returned to find Rodriguez’s main owner Michael Dubb and bloodstock agent Kim Valerio passing out peppermints to the stable.
“I try to get on one of them each day,” said Rodriguez. “If I don’t breeze them, I gallop them. If I don’t gallop them, I jog them. I like to know how they all feel.
“Rudy (Jr.) is very good. I’m very proud of him, he knows how to do everything. I want him to go to school so I can retire young. I told him to go to school, get an opportunity I didn’t have and come back with a better plan.”
Rodriguez has come far since moving to the U.S. from Mexico in 1988. Beginning as a hotwalker, he progressed to grooming, riding races and eventually training in 2010. Rodriguez was named New York’s trainer of the year last year, with 147 wins, 113 seconds, 106 thirds and $7,944,644 in earnings from 726 starts. He won 12 races at Saratoga and $823,227 in purses from 85 starts.
“Trainer of the year? Not in a million years,” Rodriguez said when asked if he expected the honor. “I just wanted to be a jockey but none of it worked out good. When you train horses for these kinds of owners and come up to be the trainer of the year, it’s so special. We have a lot of good people with us. The guys have been with us for a long time.”
Rodriguez brought 30 horses to Saratoga this summer, with 60 more in training at Belmont. After training Monday, Rodriguez removed his blue and yellow vest with his “RR” initials and went through his string with The Special’s Shayna Tiller.
Broken Engagement. Named for Dubb’s son who did just that, the playful Scat Daddy colt finished second in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes July 22. “He’s been pretty solid since we got him. He finished second in the stake at Finger Lakes, and we ran him a couple times and he’s been solid so he’s going to run in the (Albany, Aug. 25). He’s training over here now, he was training at Finger Lakes and sometimes shipping horses isn’t ideal but he ran a pretty competitive race.”
Bonita Bianca. New York-bred 3-year-old Curlin filly with unique, streaky facial markings has never finished worse than fourth. Won the East View at Belmont Dec. 30 and New York Oaks at Finger Lakes July 22. “She’s been special to us. We tried to give her a race at Monmouth Park and it didn’t look like she could handle the surface. We won the Oaks at Finger Lakes the other day. She’s been good to us. She’s very easy, very sweet. Doesn’t do anything wrong, and just a good filly to be around.”
Libby’s Tail. Three-year-old Tiz Wonderful filly, second in the last year’s Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont, finished second in an allowance Sunday. “Last year she was kind of disappointing in the (Grade 2 Adirondack). We sent her for a break and it looked like she got a little sick on the farm. She came back a little lighter than we expected, but now she looks the way I wanted. She’s dappled up pretty nice. She ran a pretty good race, the horse that beat us we thought would stop but she just kept going. It looked like she got a little intimidated on the inside, but I think seven-eighths is what she’s been looking for and she’ll probably get another chance at the end of the meet. She was nice and round as a 2-year-old, and I thought she’d grow up more but she just got a little longer.”
Lady Ivanka. Bought for $80,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May 2-year-olds in training sale, Oklahoma-bred Tiz Wonderful filly romped by 8 in her debut going 5 1/2 furlongs Wednesday. Before the race Rodriguez was optimistic. “She’s doing everything right. She’s been coming out of the gate pretty good, so hopefully she’ll bring what she’s doing in morning to the afternoon. We’ve been schooling in the paddock and she gets a little anxious.”
There Goes Ben. An $18,000 buy at 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred sale, the jet-black colt playfully nosed Rodriguez as he stood outside the stall. “He ran (Sunday) and finished fifth for $40,000. He won at Belmont. He’s a beautiful horse, he’s going to make a good pony horse. That’s my ideal. Nothing bothers him. I can ship him wherever and he says, ‘give me my food” and that’s it. He’s a good boy.”
Literata. Claimed last January, the 6-year-old daughter of Read The Footnotes finished second in the Critical Eye at Belmont in May, and won her last start in an allowance at Finger Lakes July 22. “This is a claim, she was here last year with us. She’s nice and big, always tries, always finishing first, second, third. She looks like a little piggy bank, always picks up a check.”
Mission Command. A $90,000 purchase at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred for Peachtree Stable, son of Mission Impazible finished seventh in Sleepy Hollow at Belmont in October and sports a long work tab for his return. “We won with him last year over here. He’s almost ready to run, he just got here. We like him, he’s beautiful. From 2 to 3 filled out nice. Hopefully he improves a little bit from the way he was running last year.”
Cotton Candy Cutie. Claimed by Dubb and Michael Imperio in January, the Sidney’s Candy 4-year-old finished second in the seventh race Wednesday. “She won an allowance at Finger Lakes. She looks like she wants two turns, we ran her at Belmont one turn and she didn’t look like she fired up. Before that she ran second in an allowance at Finger Lakes, just got beat.”
Royal Posse. Won the Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream Park in December and finished seventh in an allowance at Saratoga July 23, the big dark bay gelding chomped at his ball as Rodriguez approached. “He’s tailing off a little bit. With the Claiming Crown, we knew he likes the two turns a mile and an eighth, I ran him back too quick and instead of helping him I knocked him down. He looks like he’s there, he’s a very good horse. He trains good all the time, little issue over here and over there but he’s as solid as they come. If he improves we might give him another chance in the stakes. He loves his ball.”
Radiant Beauty. The lanky chestnut 2-year-old Orb filly strolled back to her stall after getting a bath following turf training with Rodriguez aboard. She finished sixth in a maiden special weight at 6 furlongs on the dirt July 30. “She felt really good, she’s been a little disappointing. At Belmont she finished third (June 29), we thought she could run a little better. The other day we ran her, she ran no good. We’re going to try her on the turf. She’s by Orb, we’ve seen a lot of Orb horses run on the turf so when a spot comes up we’re going to try the turf. Hopefully she picks up because she trained very good. I galloped and breezed her the other day and she’s coming along.”
Moolah Schmoolah. Daughter of Union Rags cost Valerio and Dubb $155,000 as a yearling last year, dappled dark bay features a big blaze down the center of her face. She breezed a half-mile in :48.32 on Saratoga’s main track Aug. 2. “This is a filly they like a lot. They paid a lot of money, when they pay more than a hundred for me that’s a lot of money because they usually pay 20, 30, 40. She’s a sweet filly. She was MTO yesterday and it didn’t rain enough so she’s supposed to run in the next couple weeks. I’m going to breeze her on the turf, she’s breezing OK, nothing yet that I can get excited but maybe in the race it’s different. I’m thinking dirt, if I like her on the grass we might do that.”
Tainted Angel. The petite grey 3-year-old Yes It’s True filly peeked her head out of the stall as Rodriguez approached. One of the barn’s winners at the meet, she won for $25,000 July 23. “This is a sweet filly that we claimed last year. She is a really, really big piggy bank. She’s good. She won here in Saratoga, she’s got a lot of issues but she always tries. I never clip a horse in the winter, I clipped this filly five times. I’d clip her today and two weeks later it was so funny. She took us so long to get her coat healthy, and they say when your hair grows you’re healthy.”
Uno Emayo. Winner of the New York Stallion Cab Calloway division last summer, 4-year-old D’Funnybone gelding is unplace in four starts since. He’s entered in the first race today. “He won a stake here last year, but I don’t know how he won. I don’t know if it was just the right time or the right place, I just don’t know.”
Frosty Margarita. Gabrielle Farm’s homebred daughter of Frost Giant was champion New York-bred 2-year-old filly in 2015. She’s run once this year, finishing fifth in an allowance at Monmouth Park July 1. “She’s doing very good, she’s supposed to run on the 17th in the Union Avenue. She’s at Belmont but is supposed to be coming up in the next couple days. She’s doing good, kind of disappointed in the way she ran at Monmouth. We entered her to prepare for this and she ran horrible. I don’t think she liked the track, but she should be competitive here.”e meet or not and if not early at Belmont.”