Rodriguez, Franco notch Aqueduct spring meet titles
by Brian Bohl
Jockey Manny Franco won his third consecutive individual meet title, Rudy Rodriguez held on for the training crown and Repole Stable, Drawing Stable and Klaravich Stable each notched four wins to lead all owners for the 12-day spring meet at Aqueduct Racetrack that concluded with Saturday’s Closing Day.
The meet, which started April 5 and was highlighted by the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets on April 6, saw Franco post 18 wins, finishing ahead of Jose Lezcano (15 victories) and Irad Ortiz, Jr., who posted a four-win day Saturday to end with 11 wins.
Franco swept all three individual meets at Aqueduct, registering 25 wins for the Aqueduct fall meet, 98 victories for the winter meet and went 18-19-18 in 84 starts, finishing in the top-three in 65.48 percent of his mounts for the spring meet.
The 24-year-old, who was the 2018 NYRA year-end leading rider with 244 wins, won two graded stakes on Wood Memorial Day, piloting World of Trouble to a win in the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap and Always Shopping in the Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle.
“It means a lot because it shows that you are doing something right if it’s happening to you,” Franco said. “I just try to keep my mind focused and ride the horses and don’t try to change. I’m comfortable here. I’ve gotten good opportunities here. I’m excited for the Belmont meet and I’ll try and keep doing what I’ve been doing and keep going.”
Rodriguez won his ninth meet title at Aqueduct, saddling nine winners in 44 starts with earnings of $466,084. After capturing the 2018 winter meet at the Big A, Rodriguez now has a spring meet title to go along with four fall meets and three inner-track meets.
“I have to thank all the people in my barn; my brother, the assistants, the hotwalkers and grooms, everyone,” Rodriguez said. “They are all very good workers. To win the title is exciting and we’ll celebrate together, and hopefully we can keep doing it.
“This is home for me. This is where I grew up,” Rodriguez added about the Big A. “I won my first race as a jockey here. I’ve been here all my life. This is my home. I spend most of my time here.”
Mike Repole, who owns Repole Stable, posted his first stakes win of the meet when Always Shopping finished 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Positive Spirit in the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies. He picked up an additional stakes score as co-owner, with St. Elias Stable, of Life’s a Parlay, who won the Grade 3 Excelsior on April 6.
Repole, who was the leading owner at Saratoga from 2010-12 and New York’s leading owner in 2009, has already posted 20 wins with his Repole Stable for 2019.
Drawing Away Stable entered the meet’s finale trailing Repole Stable by one win and earned a meet title when its only entrant on Saturday, Malarkey, won Race 4, marking a second straight day with a victory following Arewehavingfunyet in a claiming race on Friday. Drawing Away Stable, NYRA’s 2013 year-end owner leader with 89 wins, enjoyed a successful spring with Missle Bomb winning on Thursday and Bitumen winning on April 6.
Klaravich Stables won with both of its entries on Saturday to force a three-way tie. New York-bred Internet of Things posted a maiden-breaking victory in Race 2 and fellow state-bred Minsky Moment, co-owned with William Lawrence, won in his first start since December 2017 in Race 7. Klaravich Stables, led by Seth Klarman, also had Unleveraged and Front Run the Fed win maiden special weight races earlier in the meet.
Racing will move to Belmont Park for the 48-day spring/summer meet, featuring 59 total stakes races worth $18.4 million, that will run from Opening Day on Friday, April 26 through Sunday, July 7.
The meet is highlighted by the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival from Thursday, June 6 through Saturday, June 8 that will encompass 18 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s, featuring the 151st running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 8.