Cancel notches first riding title with six-win day; Rodriguez continues Aqueduct success at winter meet
by Brian Bohl
Jockey Eric Cancel tied a New York Racing Association, Inc. [NYRA] single-day record with six wins, capturing his first career riding title on the circuit with a furious comeback in the standings on Sunday, Closing Day of the 2020-21 Aqueduct Racetrack winter meet.
Cancel entered the eight-race card trailing Kendrick Carmouche by four victories but made a strong proverbial stretch-drive rally by winning six races on a single card for just the 23rd time in NYRA’s recorded history, ending his meet with 78 total victories. Cancel finished in the money in all eight races, adding a runner-up and a third-place finish in the finale in his bid to become the first jockey to win seven races in a single day at a NYRA track.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez dominated the standings with 36 wins, capping the 54-day winter meet that ran from December 10 to March 28. Michael Dubb and Repole Stable [Mike Repole] each had 10 wins to lead all owners.
Cancel crafted a dramatic winter meet finale through rainy and foggy conditions, starting in the opener when Sono Grato won going a one-turn mile in a maiden tilt. Cancel rode Big Mountain to a runner-up effort in Race 2 but won five in a row, piloting Lobsta, Kith, City Temper, Make Mischief and My Boy Tate in the $100,000 Haynesfield for New York-bred 4-year-olds and up going one mile, sweeping Races 3-7.
The 24-year-old Cancel was the leading North American apprentice rider by earnings in 2015 and was the 2015 Eclipse Award finalist as Outstanding Apprentice. Cancel finished 78-63-53 in 361 mounts and earnings of just more than $4 million. Carmouche, the defending leading rider at the Aqueduct fall meet, was second with 76 wins while Manny Franco was third with 61.
“It’s very meaningful,” Cancel said. “This is something I always wanted and I just want to continue to do better and better. I was just trying to win as much as I can and go home happy.”
Three of Cancel’s five stakes wins this meet came in February, with Make Mischief winning the $100,000 Maddie May, Miss Brazil in the $100,000 Ruthless and Risk Taking highlighting his meet with a win in the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers that earned Risk Taking 10 qualifying points for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. Cancel also guided Espresso Shot to victory in the $100,000 Biogio’s Rose on March 7 before adding My Boy Tate to the ledger.
“I’ve been trying to take everything in a good way and try to make every step better and better,” Cancel said. “I think right now, I’m on my top game. I know the guys are coming back from Florida and it’ll be a little tough because a lot of mounts will go back to them. But I’ll just keep on grinding. Nothing is going to stop me and I’ll just keep on doing my best.”
Rodriguez paced all conditioners, finishing 10 wins ahead of second-place finisher Linda Rice. The effort marked Rodriguez’s first training title since the 2019 Aqueduct spring meet. Ten of his 12 total meet titles have come at Aqueduct, with the other two during the Belmont fall meet [2010 and 2016].
Rodriguez, assisted by his brother, Gustavo, sent out a meet-high 181 starters, compiling a 36-26-26 record with earnings of more than $1.6 million. His runners finished in the money 48.62 percent of the time and posted a 19.89 winning percentage.
“I’m just very happy for everyone in the barn,” Rodriguez said. “My brother, my whole family, all the grooms and hotwalkers; they all work so hard. It’s a team effort. They all know what to do, and I’m very happy to have all of them around me and help me. We don’t have too many stakes-winning horses, but we try to make the best of it and we had a solid meet. We’d like to get even better horses and hopefully one day we’ll get there. We’re trying to build on the success and keep working hard and hopefully the big owners will send us some new stock.”
Among Rodriguez’s meet highlights was Pete’s Play Call’s 2 1/2-length win in the $100,000 Gravesend on January 2 and Backsideofthemoon’s victory in the $100,000 Queens County on December 19. Ryan’s Cat won the Peeping Tom during Saturday’s New York Claiming Championship Day.
Dubb saw his starters finish in the money in 72.5 percent of his 40 races, with his runners going 10-13-6 in winning a quarter of the races. Dubb’s runners earned $727,674, tops among all owners, with Chateau’s victory in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap on March 6 marking the highlight. Dubb, a member of NYRA’s Board of Directors, won a share of his first meet title since the 2019 Aqueduct Winter.
Repole Stable, led by Mike Repole, saw a nice mix of quality and quantity to earn a share of the title, with his starters going 10-11-6 in 43 races, posting earnings of $582,675. Backsideofthemoon’s win in the Queens County on December 19 provided an early highlight, and Devious Mo closed the meet for the stable with a maiden claiming score on March 13 to allow Repole to hit double digits.
Thoroughbred action continues at Aqueduct Racetrack for the 11-day spring meet that will run from Thursday, April 1 through Sunday, April 18. The meet will include 13 stakes worth $2.7 million in purses highlighted by the 96th running of the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on Saturday, April 3. Live racing will be conducted on a Thursday-Sunday schedule with a 1:20 p.m. Eastern first post.