03/14/2013 4:00PM

Aqueduct: Rodriguez resigned to serving suspension

Michael Amoruso
Vyjack became a top-10 contender for the Kentucky Derby with his victory in the Grade 3 Gotham.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – There is never a good time for a trainer to serve a suspension, but with a Kentucky Derby contender in his barn, the timing couldn’t be worse for Rudy Rodriguez.

Beginning Saturday, Rodriguez will be gone for 20 days after reaching an agreement with the New York Gaming Commission on a suspension for two positives accrued last year for flunixin, an anti-inflammatory sold under the name Banamine.

For dropping an appeal of a flunixin positive on the horse Heiden from April 2012, and for a pending positive on the horse Alston Gunter from last November, Rodriguez was suspended 40 days and fined $7,500 by the New York Gaming Commission. Half of the days were stayed provided Rodriguez has no equine medication positives in New York through April 4, 2014.

Rodriguez, the leading trainer at Aqueduct this winter, admitted to using the medication, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that is used therapeutically by trainers and is legal to be given until 24 hours of a race. Rodriguez said, however, that he believes these horses were given the medication 30 hours out from their races.

“They say you’re allowed to give this, and a lot of times some horses carry it in their system longer than other ones,” said Rodriguez, who won his meet-leading 40th race in Thursday’s sixth with Belief System. “We’ve been very careful. I don’t say we don’t use it, but they said we can give it 24 hours and we give it 30 hours.

“With the new rules, I try to stay away from all medications and try to avoid everything, because you don’t want them to think you’re cheating,” he added. “You’re trying to do the right thing.”

Rodriguez, a former jockey and exercise rider for now-suspended trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. has been a subject of suspicion since he had immediate success after going out on his own in 2010. That spring, he won 8 of 11 races during Aqueduct’s main track season and later that year he won the Belmont fall training title. He will win the Aqueduct inner track title as that meet ends on Sunday.

Since he started training, Rodriguez has won 356 races from 1,561 starters and his horses have earned $12.7 million.

“A lot of people just criticize you for the medication. They don’t get up in the morning and see all the hard work you put in,” Rodriguez said. “The people that criticize the people that work with the horses should get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and see everything that happens in the morning before they start pointing fingers.”

In addition to training horses, Rodriguez gets on six to eight horses each morning. That includes Vyjack, who became a top 10 contender for the Kentucky Derby with his victory in the Grade 3 Gotham on March 2 and who is pointing to the $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Rodriguez was scheduled to be aboard Vyjack when that horse worked on Friday morning at Aqueduct, but it will be his brother Gustavo Rodriguez who will be in charge of Vyjack’s preparation thereafter.

Gustavo Rodriguez got on Vyjack several times before the gelding won the Grade 2 Jerome when Rudy was in Florida with his string at Gulfstream Park.

“He gets along very good with the horse,” Rudy Rodriguez said. “He knows how the horse is, he knows he has to just let the horse do what he wants to do and don’t fight him. He’s got very, very good hands so I don’t need to worry. The horse is in good hands.”

Rodriguez will be off suspension two days before the Wood and will be allowed to be the trainer of record for that race provided owner David Wilkenfeld officially makes the entry, according to the stewards.