Rudy Rodriguez leaned his elbow atop the rail in the winner’s circle, his chin resting in his palm and eyes pasted to the big screen in the center of the infield. The giddy, sociable trainer kept to himself, motionless as the pack rounded the far turn.
The yellow, chestnut blur in the distance morphed into Literata on the outside of Jcs American Dream, thundering into the stretch.
Rodriguez broke his stillness.
“Get up, girl,” said Rodriguez, slapping the rail with his rolled program.
A smile swept across his face as the chestnut mare made her final jump towards the finish, winning the $100,000 Saratoga Dew by a half-length over Jcs American Dream.
Rodriguez bounced around the winner’s circle, high-fiving everyone from the photographers to his son, Rudy Jr.
“In Saratoga everybody wants to win a race and there’s only one winner, it’s tough,” said Rodriguez. “Saratoga’s where you want to be and where you want to win – for trainers, for owners, for jockeys, for hotwalkers, for everybody.”
Michael Dubb claimed the 6-year-old daughter of Read The Footnotes last January for $40,000. Since then, Literata has earned $307,960 for her connections.
“She’s a big piggy bank,” said Rodriguez. “She’s a very nice looking filly and she always tries, always finishing first, second, third.
“When we claim horses like that, all the credit goes to Michael Dubb to let us claim the horses. Working for Michael Dubb is great, we have a very good relationship with him. He can be tough at times but he’s one of the best owners in the game. It’s always fun, and when you ask him to claim a horse he doesn’t say no and he’s always there for you.”
After finishing fourth in an allowance at Laurel Park Jan. 29, the mare was sent to Fair Hill’s Equine Therapy Center. She came back from the layoff three months later, finishing second in the Critical Eye at Belmont Park May 29 and winning an allowance at Finger Lakes July 22.
“The last race at Laurel something happened and we sent her to Fair Hill right away,” Rodriguez said. “We tried to bring her back at Belmont and she ran a very good race in the stake there and we just wanted to build her confidence so we sent her to Finger Lakes. Then we decided to run her back over here and it turned out good.
“She’s grown a lot. She’s a nice looking filly. All the credit comes from Bruce Jackson. When she came from Bruce she was a different horse. She used to be light, had a light frame, and now she looks bigger and stronger.”
Literata stretched out to the 1 1/8-mile distance for the first time since her fifth in the Saratoga Dew last summer. With Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard, the mare chased just behind leader Flattermefabulous through early fractions of :24.98 and :49.18. She proclaimed the lead with a half-mile left, as Jcs American Dream advanced. The duo rolled into the stretch, Literata leading on the outside by a head. Ortiz drove hard and his mount responded to win by a half-length.
“I break out of there with not that much pace in the race so we know we’re going to be close,” said Ortiz. “I sit there comfortable and wait as long as I can. My filly wants pace so I start letting her pick up early and she just kept going. I think she liked the distance better than the other fillies.
“When the other one got to the inside I know she fights a little bit, so I get close to her and keep going with her. I knew my filly doesn’t quit so we were in good shape.”
Rodriguez embraced Ortiz in the winner’s circle, equally thrilled with the ride.
“The trip was perfect,” said Rodriguez. “Right when I saw Irad tuck in second, if he wasn’t second I wanted to be in the lead, because the distance on this track is pretty hard so you’ve got to be close.
“A lot of the horses make a move and can’t close. Like (Jcs American Dream) did, he made a nice move and looked like he was going to go by but maybe Irad pushed her towards the rail, maybe he intimidated her a little bit and we came up as the winner. All the credit to Irad.”
The victory earned Ortiz his 32nd of the meet, tied with his brother Jose who led the meet in wins last summer.
“Keep it tied for now, but we’ll see who’s happy in the end,” said Ortiz.