02/16/2011 3:51PM

Rodman returns from lengthy absence in optional claiming sprint

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Adam Cognialese
Rodman has not raced since winning the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap in December 2009

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – After two consecutive dominant victories – including one in the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap – in late 2009, Rodman gave his connections hope that he could be a significant player in the handicap division in 2010.

Things didn’t quite work out that way as Rodman missed his entire 5-year-old season, first with a major foot injury and then due to a serious case of colic. Friday, 14 months after his 5 3/4-length victory in the Queens County at 1 3/16 miles on Dec. 12, 2009, Rodman returns to the races at Aqueduct in a third-level optional $75,000 claiming race going six furlongs.

The six-horse field includes More Than a Reason, who won the 2010 Queens County.

Following the 2009 Queens County, Rodman was shipped to south Florida, where he was being pointed to the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. After two breezes at the Palm Meadows training center in early January 2010, Rodman developed a serious foot injury that forced him out of training.

While convalescing at owner Barry Schwartz’s farm in upstate New York, Rodman developed a bad case of colic.

“I think it was a scary 24 hours that they had with him,’’ Mike Hushion, the trainer of Rodman, said.

Rodman returned to Hushion’s Belmont Park barn in early November and has been a regular on the work tab since Dec. 11. He has breezed 11 times leading up to this race. Though Hushion views Rodman as a distance horse, he elected to run him six furlongs primarily because this race filled.

“I didn’t want to give him two more breezes and hope the [route] race went,’’ Hushion said.

Though Rodman is now 6 and has been away from the races for more than a year, Hushion is hopeful the horse can return to his previous form.

“I don’t know why I feel like a horse that’s over a year older, and has been through aches and pains is going to return to be the horse that he was when he left, but I feel that way,’’ Hushion said. “Quite often these horses end up coming back half of what they were, but I feel good about this horse.’’

Rodman, who won his career debut at six furlongs over the inner track on Jan. 31, 2008, will break the rail under Ramon Dominguez. He will likely have to run down Hewitts, who looms the primary speed under C.C. Lopez.