07/06/2005 12:00AM

Rodriguez earns his pinstripes

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Oratory, winning the Peter Pan, recently had surgery on his broken right foreleg. No decision has been made on whether he will race next year.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The New York Yankees have A-Rod. New York horseplayers have J-Rod.

Juan Rodriguez, no relation to the Yankees' All-Star third baseman, has been putting up all-star numbers of his own while taking over for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., who is currently serving a 60-day suspension. Since June 1, when Dutrow's suspension took effect, Rodriguez has saddled 14 winners from 44 starters. That puts him fifth in the Belmont Park trainer's standings. If you add Dutrow's wins to Rodriguez's, the barn is 26 for 99 at the meet.

Rodriguez saddled Offlee Wild to win last Saturday's Grade 1 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park. Two weeks earlier, Saint Liam won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Though that victory officially went to Bobby Frankel, Rodriguez had supervised all of the colt's training before leaving for Kentucky three days before the race. Frankel even acknowledged "Dutrow's people" in his post-race interview.

"I feel happy about all that has happened to me right now," Rodriguez, a 34-year-old native of Mexico, said recently. "I never expected all this, to be a trainer and win Grade 1's. I know a lot of trainers never win stakes races and look at me."

Rodriguez, who is a cousin of jockey Rudy Rodriguez, came to this country in 1987 and took his first job rubbing horses in 1989 for Richard Dutrow Sr. Rodriguez worked for him until the elder Dutrow returned to Maryland in the mid-1990's. After working for Nick Zito for a year, Rodriguez joined the Dutrow Jr. stable in 1998.

Rodriguez said he learned most of what he knows from the elder Dutrow, who was stabled in the same Aqueduct barn that currently holds Dutrow Jr.'s horses.

"I learned a lot from him," Rodriguez said. "He always checked the legs on all his horses. When he was in this barn, he'd start from that corner all the way around, and he'd show you the difference. When he saw something, he'd say, 'Look, this leg was not like that yesterday.' Rick [Jr.], he does the same thing. When he sees something wrong with a leg, he calls me."

Rodriguez said he doesn't have any plans to go out on his own anytime soon.

Dutrow, who returns from suspension July 31, said he had full confidence Rodriguez could keep things rolling in his absence.

"He came to the barn and started walking horses for my dad a long time ago, and he's been there ever since," Dutrow said. "He knows how to play the game there."

This is not the first time Dutrow's barn has continued to excel while Dutrow wasn't present. In the fall of 2000, when Dutrow surrendered his license to tend to personal problems, Cleveland Johnson was listed as the trainer of record for about seven weeks and went 14 for 32 during that time. Johnson now works for a horse transportation company.

"It was Mouse's time to get a shot anyhow," Dutrow said. Rodriguez was given the nickname "Mouse" by Chip Dutrow, Rick's brother, when they all worked for Dutrow Sr.

"When he came from Mexico, he would never say a word," Dutrow said of Rodriguez. "All he would do was just work. My brother Chip gave him that name, and it stuck with him. Now, you can't shut him up."

Or, shut him out.

No excuses for Funny Cide

Trainer Barclay Tagg had no plausible excuse for Funny Cide's 19-length loss in the Suburban. Plans for the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner are on hold.

Though Tagg said Funny Cide had a temperature immediately after the race, he said it had returned to normal later that night. Other than that, there was nothing physically wrong with him.

"I had my vet go over him, and he couldn't find anything," Tagg said.

"He didn't run fast enough to lose any weight," he said of Funny Cide. "He's never yet run well in the hot weather."

Tagg said he wasn't sure when or where Funny Cide would start again.

"We'll fool around, do a few things different, and see if anything works out," Tagg said.

Oratory has successful surgery

Dr. Stephen Selway inserted five screws to stabilize the broken right foreleg of Oratory, and no decision has been made whether the Peter Pan Stakes winner will return to the races next year or be retired.

"The surgery went well. Everything went pretty smooth," said trainer Tom Albertrani. "Once we got him down to the surgery, more pictures were taken. It was a little more complicated than we originally thought."

Oratory, owned by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable, is recovering in Albertrani's Belmont Park barn until he is able to travel.

"He'll just recover here until we have the approval from Dr. Selway," Albertrani said. "When he says it's okay to travel, I imagine he'd go to Kentucky and recover or possibly go to Florida."

Albertrani said how well Oratory recovers would determine if he is brought back to the races next year. "We can't even make that decision for a while," Albertrani said.

Meanwhile, Albertrani and Darley hope Woodlander can help fill the void left by Oratory's injury. Woodlander, a 3-year-old son of Forestry, has won his last two starts on the grass and is being pointed to Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Lexington Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf.

After showing speed but not stamina in dirt sprints, Woodlander has shown the ability to rate and finish in his last two races, both at nine furlongs on turf.

"He's been relaxing a lot better," Albertrani said. "He's maturing a little more now. He's just starting to develop into another nice 3-year-old. I need someone to take Oratory's place."

Sense of Style a go for Prioress

Trainer Patrick Biancone has conceded that Sense of Style is probably better sprinting than routing, so she will make her next start in Saturday's Grade 1 Prioress Stakes at six furlongs.

Sense of Style won the Grade 2 Spinaway and Grade 1 Matron as a 2-year-old, but was beaten in the Alcibiades and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies around two turns. After Sense of Style was beaten a nose in the Revidere at Monmouth on June 4, Biancone has targeted the Grade 1 Test on Aug. 6 as her major objective. The Prioress is a prep for the Test.

"I don't think she stays, anyways, at least at this stage of her career, and she got a little bit tired," Biancone said of the Revidere, which was contested at a mile and 70 yards. "The last one was too long; this one may be too short."

Among the horses pointing to the Prioress are Acey Deucey, Burnish, Contrast, Maddalena, R Fast Lady, and Talented.