Antonio of Venice much the best in NYSSS Times Square
Stakes Recap
Apr 14, 2024
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Antonio of Venice much the best in NYSSS Times Square

by Keith McCalmont

Antonio of Venice secured his third career stakes score with an impressive pace-pressing performance under Manny Franco in Sunday’s $200,000 Times Square division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for eligible New York-sired sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained and co-owned by Rudy Rodriguez with Michael Imperio, Robert Cotrone and Hibiscus Stables, the New York-bred Laoban colt’s 2 1/4-length victory added to stakes success here in the $500,000 NYSSS Great White Way in December and a last-out 9 1/4-length score in the state-bred Damon Runyon on March 17.

Rodriguez said Antonio of Venice touted himself with a sharp half-mile breeze in 48.03 seconds last Sunday over the Belmont Park dirt training track.

“He looks like he’s improving every time. The other day when I work him in the morning, I looked at my watch and I said, ‘wow.’ This horse is just in a different league right now, so we’re just happy he keeps improving and hopefully keeps doing that,” Rodriguez said.

Antonio of Venice broke on top from post 4 but was quickly joined by fellow Rodriguez trainee Heavyweight Champs, who marked the opening quarter-mile in a swift 22.15 seconds over the fast main track.

Heavyweight Champs, who was elevated to second in the Great White Way, led the field into the turn through a half-mile in 44.73 with Antonio of Venice looming large to his outside and last-out Gander runner-up Doc Sullivan launching a wide bid under Dylan Davis.

Antonio of Venice took command nearing the quarter-pole and opened up a sizable advantage with only Doc Sullivan - who lugged in once straightened away - to fear, but the talented bay would not be denied a strong score in a final time of 1:15.32. Doc Sullivan completed the exacta by 4 3/4-lengths over first-time starter Grand Opening with Freedsdale, Cable Ready, Heavyweight Champs and Black Almighty rounding out the order of finish.

Franco said he was confident in his tactics, sitting off the flank of Heavyweight Champs.

"Rudy's horse was the other one on the lead but I was comfortable with where I was and he was taking me without fighting him,” Franco said. “I just let him do his thing and get it done.

"He broke so good,” added Franco. “He's a horse that we need to let him go, let him use his stride, then after that do what I can do. I think he has natural speed."

The Michael Miceli-trained Doc Sullivan performed admirably while turning back in distance from his effort in the one-turn mile Gander when second to Pandagate, who exited that event to finish third in the Group 2 UAE Derby. He entered the Gander from a second-out graduation sprinting six furlongs in December and an optional-claiming romp in a one-turn mile in January, both while racing under Davis against fellow New York-breds here at the Big A.

“You understand you are running for the money so you take a chance, he has won at six furlongs before,” Davis said. “Tough company, plan was just to come out running well, and it took him a little bit to get going. Once he got going, he was in a good spot in there, but Antonio of Venice was really loaded waiting for Manny to pull that trigger. He responded nicely to him. My horse ran really well, just needs more ground."

Antonio of Venice enjoyed a lucrative juvenile campaign of 6-2-1-1 for purse earnings of $350,744 that included a third-out restricted maiden score at Saratoga Race Course and his campaign-capping Great White Way coup. He was squeezed at the gate in the state-bred Rego Park in his seasonal debut when second to Mischief Joke but turned the tables on that rival with his eye-catching score in the Damon Runyon.

Bred in the Empire State by Cypress Creek Equine, Antonio of Venice, a $35,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase, banked $110,000 in victory to improve his record to 9-4-2-1 and his total purse earnings to $535,744. He returned $4.50 for a $2 win bet.

Live racing resumes Thursday at Aqueduct with an eight-race card. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit

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