Rodriguez brings formidable contingent to New York Claiming Championship Day as he seeks to wrap up training title
Mar 26, 2021
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Rodriguez brings formidable contingent to New York Claiming Championship Day as he seeks to wrap up training title

by NYRA Press Office

  • Rodriguez brings formidable contingent to New York Claiming Championship Day as he seeks to wrap up training title
  • Turf Triple series the long term goal for Fire At Will
  • Whiskey Double on track for G3 Bay Shore
  • Daily mandatory payout of Empire 6 to continue in April at Aqueduct Racetrack
  • Aqueduct spring meet Week 1 probables

Aqueduct winter meet-leading trainer Rudy Rodriguez will be well-represented in Saturday’s New York Claiming Championship series at Aqueduct Racetrack, with seven starters entered in total across five starter stakes.

Overall, the New York Claiming Championship series – open to horses which have started for a prescribed claiming price in 2020-21 – will offer 10 stakes worth $620,000. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

Rodriguez has a stranglehold on the trainer standings, carrying 35 wins into Friday’s action. Linda Rice is second at 24 wins, making Rodriguez poised to earn another training title as the 2020-21 winter meet concludes with Sunday’s card. It will mark Rodriguez’s first training title since the 2019 Aqueduct spring, and his 12th overall.The conditioner, who turns 49 in May, praised NYRA’s Claiming Championship Day.

“It’s a good program that they do in New York,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been lucky to win in the past on days like this. It’s very special to run horses on a day like this and if they run well, it’s a plus.”

Rodriguez will saddle two in the day’s most lucrative stake, the $80,000 Caixa Eletronica for 4-year-olds and up going seven furlongs in Race 2.

Horseman Five’s Mad Munnys returns to the same distance as his third-place effort last out against optional claimers over a sloppy and sealed track on February 28 at the Big A.

His stablemate, Michael Dubb’s Pete’s Play Call, is also entered, looking to notch the second win of his 8-year-old campaign after winning the 6 1/2-furlong Gravesend on January 2 at Aqueduct.

“They both look like they’re doing good. It looks like it came up a tough race,” Rodriguez said. “But they’re both training great and we’re just hoping for a good, solid performance.”

Mad Munnys drew the inside post in the six-horse field, with jockey Reylu Gutierrez in the irons. The Munnings gelding won his 6-year-old bow on January 15 in a one-turn mile at the Big A.

“He always tries. He’s pretty solid, so we’re just happy he’s in the barn,” Rodriguez said. “I’m happy for the owners, too. They put a lot of money into the game.”

Pete’s Play Call will look to turn the tables on rival American Power on Saturday. Two starts back, Pete’s Play Call finished second, a half-length back to American Power, in the Grade 3 Toboggan on January 30 at the Caixa Eletronica distance.

Last out, in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap on March 6 going six furlongs, Pete’s Play Call finished fourth to Grade 1 Carter Handicap contender Chateau.

Pete’s Play Call exited the inside post in his last two starts but will break from post 5 on Saturday under Manny Franco.

“I was very happy with the post he drew this time,” Rodriguez said. “The last couple of times, he got on the inside and wasn’t too happy about it. Now, with an outside post, hopefully we’ll have a chance to see him run better."

Gustavo Rodriguez and Andrew Gurdon’s Ryan’s Cat earned a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his 15 3/4-length romp against claiming company last out on March 7 going seven furlongs at the Ozone Park track and will look to build on that effort in the $70,000 Peeping Tom in Race 6.

The 4-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy was claimed for $20,000 out a fifth-place effort on February 14 and transferred from Chris Englehart to Rodriguez. Ryan’s Cat earned a triple digit figure for his new connections in dominating a four-horse field. On Saturday, he will look to duplicate that effort, drawing post 8 in a nine-horse field with Luis Cardenas set to ride.

“He ran a big race,” said Rodriguez. “I know it was a small field, but it looks like he’s training forwardly, so hopefully he gives us another big effort. When we claimed him, it looked like he was in trouble, but now, we’re just happy he’s training good."

Rodriguez will also send out Malibu Mischief in the $55,000 Videogenic for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up going six furlongs in the opening race. Malibu Pro and Supreme Aura will go in the $60,000 More To Tell for 4-year-olds and up competing at one mile in Race 7.

Turf Triple series the long term goal for Fire At Will

Three Diamonds Farm’s Fire At Will eyes a return to grass for his next start with the intention on making an eventual appearance in the Turf Triple series.

Trained by Mike Maker, the son of Declaration of War capped a stellar 2-year-old campaign with a victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland. Last out, Fire At Will switched to dirt in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on February 27 at Gulfstream Park but finished a distant eighth.

Jordan Wycoff, who manages Three Diamonds with his father Kirk Wycoff, said the Grade 2, $500,000 American Turf on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs could be his next start with the intention of spring boarding into the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational on July 10 – the first leg of the Turf Triple series.

“He will be back on the grass and we’re looking at some of these grass races, but we’re thinking the American Turf on Derby weekend would be a logical spot to then jump into the Turf Triple series,” Wycoff said. “We wanted him to try the dirt again and that question was answered and now we want to get him to the path that was the goal for him.”

Implemented by NYRA in 2019 as the turf equivalent of the Triple Crown series, with all the legs contested at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, the Belmont Derby Invitational will again launch the male division of the Turf Triple series that encompasses the Saratoga Derby this summer and the Jockey Club Derby during the Belmont fall meet.

Fire At Will has been back to work since his last start, recording two breezes over the Gulfstream Park main track. Last Saturday, he went five-eighths in 1:00.17 over the South Florida oval, the third fastest of 47 recorded works at the distance.

“All is well. It was a big ask especially off the layoff, but we clearly know that he will be a grass horse going forward,” Wycoff said.

Through a record of 5-3-0-0, Fire At Will broke his maiden in an off-the-turf edition of the With Anticipation on September 2 at Saratoga before winning the Grade 3 Pilgrim over the inner turf at Belmont Park, where he beat next-out stakes winner Step Dancer.

Bred in Kentucky by Troy Rankin, Fire At Will is out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Flirt making him a close relative to Grade 1-winner Decorated Invader. He was bought for $97,000 from the Select Sales consignment at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Whiskey Double on track for G3 Bay Shore

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Whiskey Double made amends last out when turning back to six furlongs and will look to continue his one-turn success in next Saturday’s Grade 3 Bay Shore on the Wood Memorial undercard.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who won the 2008 Bay Shore with J Be K, Whiskey Double defeated winners last out on February 28 at Oaklawn Park, coming neatly from seven lengths off the pace to score by three-quarters of a length while producing a career best 80 Beyer over a sloppy and sealed track.

The Into Mischief colt was previously a distant sixth in his lone two-turn start on February 13 at Fair Grounds.

“He ran a nice race at Oaklawn last time. It looks like he’ll fit into the race really well,” said Winchell Thoroughbreds racing and bloodstock advisor David Fiske.

An $875,000 acquisition from the Buck Pond Farm consignment at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Whiskey Double had his connections optimistic after a three-quarter length debut win in June at Churchill Downs.

A minor setback sidelined Whiskey Double until January 17 when he finished third going six furlongs at Fair Grounds in a first-level allowance won by O Besos, who finished third in last weekend’s Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

“He showed a lot of promise and talent last year and we got excited about him,” Fiske said. “He had a little body work that needed to be done on him. He came out of the race at Churchill with some ankle chips, so we got that cleaned up and laid him up a bit. He ran a decent third to O Besos, so that turned out to be significant. We thought he might want to go around two turns until we tried it and then it didn’t look like he wanted to do it. So, we took him to Oaklawn to sprint him and we ran a really nice race up there.”

Fiske did not rule out another attempt at two turns for Whiskey Double.

“The run in New Orleans didn’t work out for him, but I won’t say we won’t ever try two turns again, maybe as a slightly older horse,” Fiske said. “In the past, we’ve had horses that have handled two turns better with more maturity and more experience as older horses.”

Bred in Kentucky by Buck Pond Farm and Richard M. Seale, Whiskey Double is out of the Munnings mare Lake Sebago, who was a two-time stakes-winner at one turn during her juvenile campaign. He is from the same family as New York-bred stakes winner Rinaldi, as well as multiple graded stakes placed Ontario-bred Hollinger.

Daily mandatory payout of Empire 6 to continue in April at Aqueduct Racetrack

The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced the Empire 6 wager will continue to offer a daily mandatory payout in April at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Featuring a $0.20 bet minimum and 20 percent takeout, the Empire 6 wager requires bettors to select the first-place finisher of the final six races of the card. The full pool, minus takeout, will be distributed to bettors who select the first-place finisher in the greatest number of races on the card.

In January, NYRA established a daily mandatory payout of the Empire 6 at Aqueduct as part of a pilot program in response to horseplayer interest in wagers that reward the daily player with the opportunity for impressive payouts.

The Empire 6 was launched in August 2019 with a jackpot provision in which the full pool would be paid out only to a single ticket selecting the first-place finisher in all six races, otherwise 75 percent of the day's net pool would be distributed to those who selected the first-place finisher in the greatest number of races with the remainder added into a jackpot and carried to the next day's Empire 6.

The Big A winter meet concludes on Sunday, March 28. The 11-day Aqueduct spring meet will run Thursday, April 1 through Sunday, April 18 with live racing offered on a Thursday to Sunday schedule. The spring 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.

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Aqueduct spring meet Week 1 probables

Friday, April 2

Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff

Probable: Honor Way (Charlton Baker), Kansas Kis (Ray Handal), Paris Lights (Bill Mott), Portal Creek (Juan Carlos Guerrero)

Possible: Lady Kate (Eddie Kenneally)

Saturday, April 3

Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino

Probable: Brooklyn Strong (Daniel Velazquez), Candy Man Rocket (Bill Mott), Capo Kane (Harold Wyner), Dynamic One (Todd Pletcher), Market Maven (Penny Pearce), Nicky the Vest (Jonathan Thomas), Prevalence (Brendan Walsh), Risk Taking (Chad Brown), Weyburn (Jimmy Jerkens)

Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap

Probable: Chateau (Rob Atras), Mind Control (Gregg Sacco), Mischevious Alex (Saffie Joseph, Jr.), Shoplifted (Steve Asmussen), Souper Stonehenge (Mark Casse), Wendell Fong (Natalia Lynch)

Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle

Probable: Army Wife (Mike Maker), Hybrid Eclipse (Linda Rice), Maracuja (Rob Atras), Search Results (Chad Brown), The Grass Is Blue (Chad Brown)

Possible: Alwayz Late (Bill Mott), Dollar Mountain (George Weaver), Mia Martina (Graham Motion), Zaajel (Todd Pletcher)

Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Shore

Probable: Beren (Robert Reid, Jr.), Drain the Clock (Saffie Joseph, Jr.), Freedom Fighter (Bob Baffert), Whiskey Double (Steve Asmussen)

Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior

Probable: Backsideofthemoon (Robert Klesaris), Forewarned (Uriah St. Lewis), Grumps Little Tots (Rob Atras), Haikal (Todd Pletcher), Limonite (Amira Chichakly), Modernist (Bill Mott), Mr. Buff (John Kimmel), Tintoretto (Tom Albertrani)

Possible: Doubly Blessed (Mike Maker)

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