Royal Posse Slops Through to Win Empire Classic at Belmont

Royal Posse Wins Biggest Race on Empire Showcase Day  

Saturday was a big day at Belmont, which featured eight New York-bred stakes races. Heavy rains caused a number of scratches, but 53 horses still ran in those eight races and Royal Posse won the richest race; the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap.

Royal Posse wins Empire Classic
Royal Posse wins Empire Classic

Rain fell throughout the day creating a sloppy track. Following the second race, the jockeys met with management to voice concerns about the condition of the track. But the track maintenance crew went over the surface before the Iroquois Stakes. The jockeys rode that race and then agreed to ride the remainder of the card.

Royal Posse was the day’s biggest winner, hitting his stride in the slop down the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths. Off at 3-1 odds, he paid $7.90 to win with race favorite Governor Malibu closing hard to finish second. Royal Posse has now finished first or second in 13 straight races since being claimed by trainer Rudy Rodguez for owner Michael Dubb. He’s won seven of those starts and picked up $180,000 for winning the Empire Classic.

He’s a very, very game horse,” Rodriguez said. “When I see him close to the pace I was like ‘wow.’ He wants to run all day. You got to give a lot of credit to Irad, because he didn’t take him back.”

Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. teamed with Rodriguez to win the $250,000 Maid Of The Mist for 2-year-old fillies with Bonita Springs, the 6-5 favorite. She won by 5 1/4 lengths.

The program, billed as Empire Showcase Day, saw New York-breds take center stage with the following additional results.

Bar of Gold was the dominant winner of the day, taking the $250,000 Empire Distaff by 18 lengths as the 4/5 favorite. She paid $3.70 to win, improving to 5 for 5 against New York breds, all on wet tracks.

  • Pat On the Back pulled a 20-1 upset in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow 2-year-olds, returning $43.20 to win.
  • Brother O’Connell edged Tapitation by a neck in the $200,000 Mohawk. He paid $11.20 to win.
  • Old Harbor, sixth in the race last year, rebounded to take the $200,000 Ticonderoga for fillies and mares. She paid $7.80 to win.
  • Quezon, the 1/5 favorite, took the $150,000 Iroquois for filly and mare sprinters by 5 1/4 lengths, paying $2.50 to win.
  • Breakin the Fever beat 2/5 choice Weekend Hideaway by a half-length in the $150,000 Hudson for sprinters, paying $8.30 to win.


New York State Gaming Commission Suspends Trainer

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez Suspended and Fined by New York State Gaming Commission

The New York State Gaming Commission has suspended and fined troubled trainer Rudy Rodriguez after two of his horses tested positive for drugs. Rodriguez will serve a 25-day suspension from March 2-25 and pay a $2,500 fine.

The NYS Gaming Commission issued the ruling February 28 after two of Rodriguez’ horses tested positive for the Class 4 therapeutic drug flunixin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug also known as Banamine that is used to treat colic and muscle pain. Majestic Marquet and Vee’s Accolade both had flunixin present in their system during race day.

Majestic Marquet won the eighth race at Aqueduct Racetrack on March 10, 2013, while Vee’s Accolade finished second in the sixth race at Belmont Park April 26. Both horses were disqualified from the order of finish and ordered unplaced, with purse money from the races to be redistributed.

Rudy RodriguezRodriguez will be denied access to the grounds and after completion of his suspension, he’ll serve a nine-month probationary period. An additional 20-day suspension would be levied if any horse in his barn tests positive to drug use.

This is not the first time Rodriguez has been in trouble with drugging horses. The former jockey and exercise rider for banned trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. also served a 20-day suspension in 2013 and paid a 7,500 fine after two horses tested positive for flunixin in 2012.

Rodriguez began his training career in 2010 and has saddled 582 winners with earnings of $24,819,559. In 2014 he had his best season ever, winning 132 races from 628 starts with earnings of $7,510,689, including saddling the winners of four grade I races – Belle Gallantey (Delaware Handicap, Beldame Stakes), Dads Caps (Carter Handicap), and Condo Commando (Spinaway Stakes).

Condo Commando is considered a top prospect for this year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr.I) to be held at Churchill Downs May 1.