Class, Distance Test for Howgreatisnate in $100,000 Private Terms
New York Shipper Register Narrow 3-1 Program Favorite in 3YO Stakes
Five Stakes Worth $450,000 in Purses on Saturday’s 10-Race Program
BALTIMORE – Paul Fowler Jr.’s 4-year-old gelding Shaft’s Bullett rolled to a popular victory in Friday’s Race 8 feature at Laurel Park to complete a record-tying seven-win day for jockey Jaime Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 32, tied Horacio Karamanos and Chuck Baltazar for the most wins on a single card at Laurel. Baltazar rode seven straight winners Dec. 15, 1969, and Horacio Karamanos equaled the mark Oct. 26, 2002.
“I was pretty happy when I won the first one,” Rodriguez said. “I thought that everything that I rode had a shot today. I give everything to anyone that I ride. I am so happy. It’s a huge day. Seven wins in one day? It’s impressive.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Rodriguez won each of the first five races Friday aboard Center Mid Maddie ($8.60), Albertano ($4.80), Six the Hard Way ($12.40), Big Cheeks ($6.20) and Pelota ($3.60) before streak was snapped when he ran fifth in Race 6 on Peach Be With Q.
Rodriguez came back to win Race 7 on Semper Fi ($3.80) and capped his performance on Shaft’s Bullet. Tracking the duel of Local Motive and Momos while racing in the clear three wide in third, Shaft’s Bullet rolled up to the leaders on the turn and took over once straightened for home.
After taking one peek behind him in mid-stretch to monitor any late runners, Rodriguez pumped his fist as he cruised to the wire unchallenged 5 ¼ lengths ahead of belated runner-up Be Better. The winning time in the second-level optional claiming allowance for 4-year-olds and up was 1:37.89 for one mile over a fast main track.
“I was pretty confident he had a shot and I said, ‘I think this is going to be the seventh today,’” Rodriguez said. “Thank God, everything worked out the good way and he won the race.”
Center Mid Maddie, Big Cheeks, Pelota and Semper Fi are all trained by Jamie Ness, who leads Laurel’s winter stand with 31 wins. Ness and Rodriguez are a combined 26-for-86 at the meet (30 percent).
“We have a pretty good relationship. I trust him, and he trusts me, too. Everything that we do, we do as a team and we go from there. That’s how we work,” Rodriguez said. “I ride a lot for him but the same effort I give to him I’m going to give to everyone. I’m not picky. Whatever I’ve got, I’m going to give 100 percent.”
Rodriguez’s other wins Friday came for trainers Rudy Sanchez-Salomon and Gary Capuano. Rodriguez, who did not have a mount in Laurel’s Race 9 finale, entered the day trailing apprentice Jeiron Barbosa by one win for the winter meet riding title, and now holds a 47-41 lead.
Between Sept. 16 and 22, 2022, Rodriguez won eight straight races for eight different trainers at Delaware Park, one shy of the recognized U.S. record shared by Albert Adams (1930), Anthony Black (1993) and Travis Dunkelberger (2009).
Rodriguez had his best season ever in 2022, with career highs in wins (243) and purse earnings ($7.5 million) from 982 mounts, ranking seventh among North American riders in victories. He won his second straight Delaware Park riding title with 134 wins, 75 more than runner-up Mychel Sanchez, also going 24-for-89 at Parx (27 percent).
Last year, Rodriguez finished third at Laurel’s winter (26 wins) and spring meets (16) and was fifth at the calendar year-ending fall stand (25). He ended 2022 ranked sixth overall with 79 wins in Maryland.
Rodriguez attended Puerto Rico’s famous Escuela Vocacional Hipica jockey school and according to Equibase statistics earned his first domestic victory May 5, 2010 on East to Eden at Belmont Park. He rode primarily at Aqueduct and Belmont before relocating to Finger Lakes in 2012, dominating the standings. Rodriguez also spent time at Mahoning Valley before moving his tack to the Mid-Atlantic in 2020.
Equibase shows Rodriguez with career totals of 1,955 wins and more than $36.4 million in purse earnings. He is named in six of 10 races Saturday at Laurel, including multiple stakes winner Coffeewithchris in the $100,000 Private Terms for 3-year-olds, Ournationonparade in the $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial for 4-year-olds and up and Mavilus in the $75,000 Conniver for older Maryland-bred/sired female sprinters.
Class, Distance Test for Howgreatisnate in $100,000 Private Terms
Racing fans that watched the Gotham (G3) earlier this month at Aqueduct came away impressed with the way Imaginary Stables’ Howgreatisnate ran, crossing the wire second after having won each of his first four races, two of them in stakes.
Thing is, it didn’t count. Howgreatisnate stumbled badly leaving the gate, losing rider J.D. Acosta, but continued to race. He swept past the field on the outside to take the lead on the far turn, dropped down inside and held it until passed by eventual long shot winner Raise Cain in mid-stretch.
Appearing to ease up after having no competition on the front end, he came on again with the challenge of Raise Cain and wound up a length short but several lengths ahead of the next finisher, Slip Mahoney.
“He galloped around in front of the horses. I don’t take a lot out of that,” trainer Andrew Simoff said. “Some people were going crazy on the Internet about how great he ran. Me personally, I can’t really take anything away from it.”
Howgreatisnate will make his comeback in Saturday’s $100,000 Private Terms, Maryland’s next stop for 3-year-olds on the road to the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, May 20 at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Parx-based Simoff opted to come back in the Private Terms at about 1 1/16 miles, his longest race to date, rather than wait for something like the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial (G2) April 8 at Aqueduct.
“We’re kind of stuck. [Do we] go back to the Wood, which is going to be a tougher spot,” he said. “We haven’t really been tested. The last race didn’t seem to take a lot out of him with no rider and all. He came back good, ate up and has been acting and training good. At least this way, we’ll try to get a little better idea of what we have on Saturday.”
Howgreatisnate was purchased for $67,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2021 and debuted with a come-from-behind maiden claiming triumph last August at Delaware Park. He won the First State Dash second time out and an optional claiming allowance, both at Delaware, before returning to Parx to capture the Dec. 5 Future Stars in his juvenile finale.
“The owner sent me to Keeneland to buy some babies the year before and we bought four. Fortunately, he was one of them,” Simoff said. “Nice horse, nice balance to him. He’s not real big, not real small. We brought him back and got him Delaware certified and then my brother, Richard, broke him out on his farm in Oxford, Pa.
“We brought him into Delaware last spring and he was always a pleasure to work with,” he added. “We kind of got screwed up when we went to the Gotham. We wanted to get a line on him against better horses and hopefully get some points if he was that good. Unfortunately, he was fresh, he had three months off and he just outbroke himself. He stumbled really bad, it wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was just one of those things. You couldn’t prevent it. There’s no way the rider could have stayed on, so you can’t really blame anybody. It was just a bad circumstance.”
Acosta will be back aboard Howgreatisnate in the Private Terms, breaking from Post 4 of eight as the fourth program choice at 4-1 behind New York shipper Register (3-1), Hayes Strike (7-2) and Coffeewithchris (7-2). Both Hayes Strike and 6-1 fifth choice Circling the Drain are Triple Crown-nominated.
“If he runs good then it kind of open him back up for bigger things,” Simoff said. “Even if he ran fifth or sixth in the Gotham, I’m all right with that … but not getting any kind of line was just tough. You still don’t know where you’re at with him. But, that’s the beauty of this business. The heartaches make it that much sweeter when you win.”
Howgreatisnate is named for owner John Guarnere’s young grandson, who has been on hand for some of his races.
“He’s a younger kid, maybe 8 or 10. He gets a kick out of it,” Simoff said. “In the Gotham we were getting ready and he was standing there and I said, ‘Nate, come on out and give him a pet for luck.’ We’re getting ready to throw the rider up and he’s petting the horse. The paddock judge wasn’t too happy. He came when he won the stake at Delaware and he came up to New York. He’s getting a kick out of it. For a young kid it’s been fun.”
The Private Terms (Race 9) is the last of five stakes worth $450,000 in purses on a 10-race program, following the $75,000 Conniver (Race 5), $75,000 Not For Love (Race 6), $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial (Race 7) and $100,000 Beyond The Wire (Race 10), the latter for 3-year-old fillies on the road to the 99th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 19 at Pimlico.
A seven-furlong sprint for older Maryland-bred/sired females, the Conniver kicks off the 20-cent Rainbow 6. The sequence includes the Harrison Johnson, Beyond The Wire and Private Terms before wrapping up in Race 10.
Notes: Trainer Rudy Sanchez-Salomon sent out a pair of winners Friday, Six the Hard Way ($12.40) in Race 3 and Irish Lace ($10.60) in Race 9 … There will be carryovers of $2,172 in the $1 Super Hi-5 (Race 1) and $1,857.08 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 5-10). Multiple tickets with all six winners Friday each returned $56.68.