The Rise Of Rudy


As 2010 heads into its final stretch, turf writers will start compiling their most significant stories of the year. Right near the top will be the spectacular emergence of Rudy Rodriguez as a premier Thoroughbred trainer.

According to statistics compiled by Daily Racing Form's Formulator Web program, Rodriguez has saddled 50 winners from 169 starters through Oct. 13. His training career began Feb. 18 when Wicked Climb went to the post at 12-1 odds. The gelding finished sixth that afternoon. Rodriguez had to wait six weeks for his first official victory. Aegean Breeze broke the ice to the tune of $44.80.

Rudy’s strike rate is among the highest ever recorded in New York over a period of time. He’s winning right at 30 percent, with 65 percent in the money.

Despite Rodriguez’ winners paying an average of less than $6.00, the return on investment (ROI) from a $2.00 win wager on all his horses is $2.38. That’s a 19 percent profit, about the same as the average high interest credit card.

Rudy’s sudden, incendiary success has prompted some to give him the nickname ‘Rocket Man.’ He and his stable have truly blasted off in impressive fashion.

As most racing fans know by now, Rodriguez was a sometime jockey and frequent exercise rider before turning in his tack. Among the trainers he worked for in both capacities were Rick Dutrow and the late Hall of Famer, Bobby Frankel. Rudy's brother Juan has been a longtime top assistant for Dutrow.

Those connections served Rodriguez well when he went into training. Prominent New York owners like Michael Dubb, Sandy Goldfarb, Flying Zee Stable, and Winter Park Partners, have switched some of their horses to Rudy. Often the animals have come directly from Rick Dutrow’s barn, or from those of his brothers Tony and Chip.

Because of this lucrative pipeline, Rudy has compiled one of the most phenomenal statistics I’ve ever seen. Horses making their first start for the Rodriguez barn after a straight trainer change have won 15 of 29 starts, a celestial 52 percent. In addition, Rudy has hit first-time out with 8 of 22 claimed horses. That is a 36 percent strike rate.

As you may expect, these unprecedented numbers have prompted other owners to send Thoroughbreds Rudy’s way. Big-money player Zayat Stable has given some of its underachievers to Rudy and there were immediate results.

Many of Rodriguez’s horses are claiming animals or New York-breds. Unlike many trainers with similar quality stock, he has been almost as potent on turf as dirt. To date, dirt animals have won 31 percent of the time, with turf starters hitting at 24 percent. By comparison, Rick Dutrow's turf horses couldn't get arrested when they went on the grass during the first couple of years he was on his own. Eventually a superb horseman like The Rickster figures things out, and he now does well on turf. But even Rick didn’t have instant success like Rodriguez.

Recently a friend suggested I do some research into the Rodriguez/Dutrow connection. He noted how observation has shown that when brothers Rick, Tony, or Chip, have horses in the same race, a Dutrow will win between 50-60 percent of the time. He suggested I look at whether the same holds for races with Dutrow and Rodriguez animals. The short answer is yes.

According to my research, since Rodriguez has begun training, there have been 23 races which fit this example. One odd finding is that in none of the 23 was there more than one Dutrow horse to go along with a Rodriguez horse.

Amazingly, Rudy saddled the winner of 8 of those 23 races. They returned $98.10 for a $2.00 win wager on all of Rudy's starters. That divides out to a stratospheric ROI of $4.27, and a net profit of $52.10.

To be fair, one may want to calculate the results by removing the $44.80 horse mentioned above. Since that was Rodriguez' first winning animal, bettors msy have been waiting on the sidelines until he showed a victory.

By subtracting those races which occurred before the horse won, the numbers come down to a $2.67 ROI, still very substantial.

The three Dutrow brothers could manage only a trio of wins in the 23 events where Rudy had a horse. A blind bettor would have lost substantial capital wagering on Dutrow entrants to beat Rodriguez’ horses. Nevertheless, 11 for 23 means a Rodriguez or Dutrow starter won 48 percent of the time.

Perhaps the most impressive single accomplishment from the Rodriguez barn has been New York-bred Endless Circle. The 6-year-old horse was claimed for $14,000 on April 16. Since then he has made five starts for Rudy and owners Vincent Scuderi and James Riccio. If those names sound familiar, both men had horses with Pistol Peter Ferriola when I was getting into the game in the late 1980s.

Endless Circle has won four of those five races, two of them stakes. He finished second by three-quarters of a length in the other. The horse has bankrolled more than $150,000 since being haltered.

Almost as amazing is the work of Temecula Creek. Once trained by Bobby Frankel, the 6-year-old was claimed for $7,500 on March 6. He finished ninth that day, beaten a dozen lengths.

Rudy turned him around. Temecula Creek won four consecutive starter allowance races, and has been in three stakes since. His best finish in the last has been a second in an ungraded event. I’ll give him a pass on the other two, both Grade 1 races.

A published report over the summer indicated the New York Racing Association had Rudy under special scrutiny to assure fair results. To date, no wrongdoing has been found, or made public. Until that changes, Rodriguez deserves the benefit of the doubt and our respect.

by Nick Kling


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