Updated on 04/18/2013 8:54AM

Rodriguez licensed in Kentucky; Vyjack to be under surveillance

Michael Amoruso
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez testified that he would welcome video surveillance of Vyjack.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The licensing review committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission voted Tuesday to approve a license application for Rudy Rodriguez, trainer of the Kentucky Derby hopeful Vyjack, but under a requirement that Vyjack be monitored by video surveillance while at Churchill Downs.

The committee approved the application after a two-hour hearing that included an inconclusive round of questioning on a suspension Rodriguez was handed by New Jersey regulators in 2007 for “conduct detrimental to racing” and more general questions aimed at recent overages for painkillers in New York. In addition, the committee attempted to ascertain whether Rodriguez continues to remain in contact with Richard Dutrow Jr., the banned trainer who had previously been Rodriguez’s employer before Rodriguez struck out on his own as a trainer in 2010.

The approval of the license will free up Rodriguez to ship and train Vyjack at Churchill Downs in the weeks leading up to the Derby. Vyjack, who was undefeated until finishing third to Derby favorite Verrazano in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York on April 6, is currently at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland being treated for a mild lung infection, Rodriguez said.

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During the Tuesday hearing, Rodriguez testified that he would welcome video surveillance of Vyjack. The committee said that the horse would be required to be monitored around-the-clock.

Much of the Tuesday hearing focused on why Rodriguez was given a seven-day suspension and $2,500 fine in 2007 by New Jersey regulators in connection with the horse Wild Desert, who was trained under a false name by Dutrow at Aqueduct during parts of 2005. The horse had a recorded workout at Monmouth that year, but that horse was not Wild Desert, but another horse with a false name.

Rodriguez, who was working as an exercise rider for Dutrow at the time, said that he never worked the horse in New Jersey, and he said it was not clear whether he was interviewed by investigators or stewards in New Jersey in relation to the incident. Rodriguez was licensed as a jockey at the time in New Jersey, and he said he accepted the penalty to “move on with my life, to work for my family.”

In a partial explanation, Rodriguez’s counsel, Karen Murphy, a New York attorney, said that Rodriguez, a Mexican immigrant who is a U.S. citizen, has been “non-confrontational his whole life” due to his status as an immigrant.

Murphy also attempted to establish during the hearing that Rodriguez has had limited contact with Dutrow following his decision to take out his trainer’s license in early 2010. Rodriguez said that his contact with Dutrow since then has been comments made “in passing” in the mornings at New York tracks.

Michael Dubb, a trustee of the New York Racing Association who has 25 horses with Rodriguez, and Dale Romans, a Kentucky-based trainer, both testified in strong terms in support of Rodriguez, separately citing his work ethic, honesty, and horsemanship.