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Barn Notes: Saturday, May 10, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/10/2014 #
  • Every Way winning over La Tia on May 9. (Four Footed Fotos)

In Today’s Notes: Every Way and La Tia on Possible Collision Course; Sugar Daddy Stable’s Rodriguez Hoping for Sweet Encore

EVERY WAY AND LA TIA ON POSSIBLE COLLISION COURSE
Friday’s featured third race turned into a stakes-level allowance when multiple Illinois Champion La Tia, graded stakes winner (and Grade I-placed) Via Villaggio and multiple graded-stakes placed Every Way hooked up in the 1 1/16-miles main track event.  Entering the stretch, the race turned into a battle between La Tia – the pacemaker under Constantino Roman – and Every Way, under the tutelage of James Graham.  The latter outlasted her rival by just under a length after an exciting final eighth that saw La Tia battle back gamely in defeat.

Every Way – owned by the partnership of Haynes Stables, Steven Perlick, Alan Herman and Richard Dunn – came out of her side of things quite well, according to trainer Mike Stidham.  “She looked great,” he said.  “Going into the race wasn’t by design, but she was eligible and our main goal this year is to make her a stakes winner.  She’s obviously graded-stakes placed, but we really are wanting a win to happen.  She deserves it.”

Though it comes up a mere 15 days after yesterday’s race, the Grade III Arlington Matron is on the radar for the daughter of City Zip.  “It probably does come up a bit soon, but we’re not going to rule it out,” said Stidham.  “We’ll nominate and look at it.  We also have options at Canterbury and a few other places.  If the Matron was three to four weeks (away) it would be a definite.”

The conditioner was not surprised at all with his filly’s tenacity in the lane.  “She’s always been very tough and tenacious like that,” he said.  “What surprised me was that La Tia went that fast.  Our filly had to really pick it up to get within striking distance and we were the only horse making up significant ground on La Tia.  It was definitely was like an open allowance or stakes field. 

“I just really would love to get a stakes for her.  In the (Jersey Lily Stakes) at Sam Houston she was just beat at the end in a heartbreaker.  E. T. Baird rode her beautifully that day, but Rosie (Napravnik on Always Kitten) came flying and nipped her at the wire.”

Hernandez Racing Club’s La Tia apparently gained a great deal out of her race, even in defeat.  “She came out a little tired,” reported trainer Armando De La Cerda.  “She looks okay, though, and the race will do her good.  She was exhausted this morning, though.  Right after the race she layed down in her stall.  But, this morning, she was up and happy.

“The pace was too fast for her, but she fought – she always fights.  I wish (Roman) would not have gone so fast.  Hopefully the race will get her ready for the Matron,” said De La Cerda.  “I’m happy with the way she ran.  We will also look at the Lincoln Heritage, which is a month after the Matron – she won that last year.  We might do both.”

SUGAR DADDY STABLE’S RODRIGUEZ HOPING FOR SWEET ENCORE
Sugar Daddy Stable surprised many Arlington International Racecourse fans in 2013 by finishing in a tie for third in the owner standings.  Comprised mostly of the oft-volatile claiming stock, Sugar Daddy managed to acquire 14 wins to its credit from 54 starts – striking at a 26% rate (with an impressive 52% in the money) and finishing behind national powerhouse stable Midwest Thoroughbreds (31) and a mere two victories astern 2011 champion owner William Stiritz (16). 

“I’ve been owning for about seven years, but going to the track my whole life,” said principle Leo Rodridguez.  “My uncles used to hotwalk horses and my cousin, Francisco Torres, was starting to be a jockey back then – he was a role model for us.  Then, when I was 18, (trainer) Bettye Gabriel sold me a horse for $1,500.  She ran second in a cheap claimer.  After that, I got another horse in Texas while I was on vacation and from there it’s history.”

Rodriguez, who keeps his horses with Armando De La Cerda, is not restricted to the ‘claiming game’, per se.  He is quick to note that the horses – and building a passionate business foundation with them – is foremost.  “I have about 30 horses at the farm – including broodmares, weanlings and yearlings.  Here at Arlington, I have about 12 horses in training,” he said.  “I like them all equally.  They might be cheap claimers, but they are my relaxation – my getaway.”

Rodriguez also is adamant about his loyalty to the Illinois racing and breeding programs.  “Illinois is home.  I tried to run elsewhere, but it’s not the same,” he explained.  “It’s fun having your horses here.  It calms me down to be able to go back to the barn and be with my horses.  My escape is the track, so it’s nice to be close.  Right now, I’m looking forward to running everything I breed.  It’s new for me and I basically just want to hope for the best.”

Sugar Daddy Stable has recently delved into the stallion market with a well bred stud named Hero’s And Crooks – a son of prominent sire-of-sires Pulpit, who begat current leading stallion Tapit and is the grandsire of California Chrome.  Hero’s And Crooks is also a full-brother to impressive Grade II winner Oratory. 

“I claimed the colt off Louis Roussel about two years ago.  I was looking to get into breeding at that point because I had two broodmares.  I absolutely loved his breeding and the way he looked.  This year I got five babies on the ground by him.  I really haven’t advertised him or anything, but I really think he will make a very good stallion,” Rodriguez beamed. 

Integral to his fervor for the industry is insisting his charges get the best possible care and opportunities.  Employing De La Cerda – a second-year head trainer – has been elemental to such.  “I met Armando at the track.  He was talking about becoming a trainer and had a couple owners lined up.  I saw it as an opportunity to give my horses the best training, care and shot at winning,” Rodriguez explained.  “Last year was our first year and we had a big year.  He brings experience and honesty to the table and tells me what kinds of horses I have.  I respect that he will tell me when a horse is not very good.  It is also really great to be in the same barn as horses like (multiple Illinois Champion) La Tia and know my horses get the same quality care.”

Such drive and focus has paid off, so far, for the Chicago native.  “Finishing third last year as an owner was a great achievement with the types of horses I had – I was really overjoyed.  Hopefully it’ll be an even better year and I’ll keep improving,” he continued. “In this game, some days are good and some bad; you just have to take it in stride.”

One of those good days was in late summer 2013.  “One of my favorite moments was when the first horse I ever bred, Chapparra, won first time out on August 30.  I definitely partied that night – it was a great feeling,” Rodriguez said with great satisfaction.  “We all have big goals – obviously one day I would love to win a race like the Breeders’ Cup or the Kentucky Derby – but right now, I just want to be competitive.

“I’m looking forward to this meet.  I don’t know why, but I have better luck at Arlington than the other tracks in the area.  Even if the competition is harder, I seem to do well – which is great, because it’s home,” Rodriguez concluded.