05/19/2016 3:30PM

Yonkers: Rodeo Rock looks to turn the corner for Rooney final


Training down as a 2-year-old Don Swick had high hopes for Rodeo Rock, one of nine entered Saturday in the Art Rooney eliminations at Yonkers. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven was purchased for more than $100K as a yearling and had given Swick indications that he had plenty of talent.

Swick’s impression of the colt was still high last July when he finished second to Autotune Hanover in the rich Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace at Yonkers.  Yet a look at Rodeo Rock’s record of just one victory in 11 starts and one gets the impression he was a bit of an underachiever.

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“I really had high hopes for him. He was kind of moody. Everything had to go right for him or he didn’t try,” said Swick, who acknowledged the best trip turned out to be in the Metro consolation where he dead-heated in a 1:53 mile.

“Following his races in Lexington we decided to geld him,” said Swick with a clear understanding of what was ahead. “We could use 10 geldings like Wiggle It Jiggleit in this sport.”

Swick of course is just hopeful that Rodeo Rock will have turned the corner from last year and begin to show the promise expected as a juvenile.

“He qualified back well both times. Andy (driver, McCarthy) said that he gets a little lazy on the front end but every time he asked him to go forward Rodeo Rock responded,” said Swick.

Rodeo Rock qualified in 1:54 at Harrah’s Philadelphia on May 10 and will make his sophomore debut in the single $40,000 elimination for the Art Rooney. Dan Dube will guide him out of post four.

In the Rooney, Rodeo Rock will meet last year’s Sheppard winner Autotune Hanover (post 6) as well as this year’s impressive gelding Missile J (post 2).

“Linda’s (Toscano) horse has looked pretty sharp,” said Swick, referring to Missile J. That gelding will make his first ever half-mile track start.

The Rooney elimination goes as race four with only one in the field to be eliminated from next Saturday’s $300,000 event.

“It’s his first start and it’s an elimination,” said Swick, “You don’t want to hurt him but you want to be sure to qualify.”

It will be the second start of the season for Autotune Hanover, a son of Art Major that earned more than $200K as a freshman for trainer Mark Harder. Tyler Buter has the assignment after guiding the colt to a third-place finish at Pocono this past Sunday.

Missile J ships to Yonkers after a most impressive victory at The Meadowlands this past Saturday night. The son of American Ideal looked to be in an impossible spot coming off slow fractions but became energized in the stretch, vaulting to a 1:51 victory. The final quarter of 25 3/5 gave solid indication that Missile J could indeed be a player against high caliber sophomores this season.

Manny could be another interesting horse in the Rooney. The Jessica Okusko-trained colt took a 1:51 3/5 mark at the Red Mile last year in an overnight event then struggled in stakes competition. Following three qualifying races this year, he made his debut last Friday at Saratoga finishing fourth in a 1:54 4/5 mile. Brent Holland will guide him from post nine.

New York-breds dominate the race with seven of the nine eligible in the Empire State. Tap Into Power will make his first stakes start for trainer Jeff Bamond Jr.  The son of Roll With Joe was purchased late during his 2-year-old campaign and made one start at Yonkers in December before stopping for the season. Jason Bartlett will guide Tap Into Power from post five.

Artmagic is coupled with Missile J in the wagering due to common ownership. The Art Major-sired gelding has George Brennan in the bike from post three.

Swick is hopeful that Rodeo Rock will show the needed determination to capture 3-year-old stakes events this year.

“We’ve kept him on the half-mile tracks primarily,” said Swick. “He’s not eligible in Ontario or at The Meadowlands. Obviously the primary goal is to reach the Little Brown Jug.”

Yonkers offers 12 races on Saturday night with the Rooney elimination going as race four. First post is 7:10 p.m.