Roderick Rodriguez Enjoys Success With Schuylerville (G3) Winner Off The Tracks; Wins First Graded Stakes with Gulfstream Park West-based Juvenile
Jul 25, 2015
Wins First Graded Stakes with Gulfstream Park West-based Juvenile
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL– When Gulfstream Park West-based trainer Roderick Rodriguez sent two horses to run at Saratoga’s summer race meet, he compared it to making “the playoffs” in major league sports. He got to experience what a playoff win feels like Friday afternoon, when his freshman filly Off the Tracks, the 8-1 fifth choice in a field of eight runners, powered home to a 3 ¼-length victory in the Spa’s $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes (G3). It was the Panama native’s first graded-stakes victory as a trainer, and it came with his very first Saratoga starter.
“It was my biggest win so far in my career,” Rodriguez said. “To do it my first time at Saratoga, which is the one of the biggest meets on the east coast, [meant a lot]. Thank God it was able to come true.”
Off the Tracks, a 2-year-old daughter of Curlin and the Boston Harbor mare Harve de Grace, trained up to the Schuylerville at Gulfstream Park West, Gulfstream Park’s sister facility located eight miles west of the Hallandale track. A $50,000 purchase at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, Off the Tracks made her career debut at Gulfstream on June 13, drawing off by a widening 4 ¼ lengths as the heavy favorite.
“The way she won, she did it like she’d been racing for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “It was a professional win, the way she did it. We knew she had the ability, but it was just about keeping her sound and together. She has a good future ahead of her.”
“It was a big advantage to train her in South Florida,” he added. “The horses that come up from [Gulfstream Park West] seem to do better. It’s a safer track, and the horses stay sound, and we’re able to go outside of Florida and have our horses run big.”
After the maiden score, it was straight to Saratoga Springs and graded-stakes company at the request of owner Joaqin Guerrero of J Stable, a move that has Rodriguez celebrating the biggest triumph of his career 22 years after he completely stopped training and stepped away from the racetrack. After working for his father’s racing operation in Miami Gardens and then taking out his own training license in 1989, Rodriguez took an extended hiatus from racing beginning in 1993. For the next 11 years, he opened up a carpet business – “Carpet Rescue” – in Broward County and worked at Miami Airport.
“I was doing the carpet business with a friend, and I just got tired of it,” Rodriguez recalled. “I had an aunt who was working at Miami Airport, and she always said to me, ‘Come on, come work at the airport. You’ll like it!’ So, I decided to call my aunt and say, ‘Hey, I’m going for it.’ I took that job at the airport, and I loved it.”
But extenuating circumstances would lead Rodriguez back to the racetrack.
“What happened was, we were doing the security for American Airlines, but after September 11 happened and the Twin Towers fell, the government took over the security of the airports, and we kind of got pushed out. So that’s when I decided to come back to the races.”
“It was always in the back of my mind, coming back,” he added. “All my family members are trainers – my father, my grandfather, two brothers in Panama.”
Rodriguez just needed that push. In 2004, his occupation was once again at the racetrack, and within four years, he had his own stable again. He currently has 15 horses in his care at Gulfstream Park West, and two– Off the Tracks and Mind Your Biscuits, an unraced son of Posse - are in New York. Rodriguez says his phone is “ringing like crazy” with offers for his top filly, but he affirms that he and Guerrero, after selling another talented colt, Tommy Macho, who recently finished third in the Dwyer (G3) at Belmont Park, are not interested in parting ways with their horse this time around.
“Tommy Macho is doing really well now,” he said. “When you see him doing good, you want to have a good horse, too. So, here [Off the Tracks] comes, and she started doing good, and I said, ‘No, we’re keeping this one.’”
Rodriguez said the Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga on Sept. 5 is the next goal for Off the Tracks. In the interim, he will continue to fly back and forth to train and race in both South Florida and New York.
“I still have horses down there, so I go back and forth,” he said. “We’ve got a big race in six weeks with this filly, and hopefully we’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup with her.”