Barry Schwartz’s Rodman took advantage of an unexpectedly easy lead and was never seriously challenged while romping to a 5 3/4-length score in the $107,500 Queens County Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) Dec. 12 on the Aqueduct inner track.
Rodman, a 4-year-old son of Malibu Moon, was making his stakes debut in the 1 3/16-mile race. The improving horse entered the race off a nearly eight-length victory in a mile allowance contest at Aqueduct and was stretching out beyond that distance for the first time in his career. The chestnut colt is trained by Michael Hushion.
Ridden by Javier Castellano for the first time, Rodman was expected to get early pressure from a few challengers, but never did. He loped along in easy splits of :24.88 and :49.61, while Storm Play raced in second position. Researcher, last year’s Queens County winner and the 8-5 favorite, and Honour Devil, chased those two from the next group.
Rodman still enjoyed a one-length advantage after running six furlongs in 1:14.06 and then hit another gear when turning for home. He had plenty left in the tank for the stretch drive, eventually crossing the wire in 1:57 flat on a fast track. Researcher nosed out More Than a Reason for runner-up.
“I didn’t expect to be on the lead, but he broke so clean and he felt like he wanted to go," Castellano said. "The main thing was at a mile and three-sixteenths I didn’t want to be fighting him the whole way. He came out with so much natural speed and he made the lead so easy. He enjoyed the trip the whole way, and when I asked him he really responded at the top of the stretch.”
Rodman, who has made all 12 career starts in New York, won for the fourth time in eight starts this season. Overall, he has earned $200,522. Bred in Kentucky by David Hager II, he is out of the Affirmed mare Crystal Gem.
"We knew he was going to be a little strong," Hushion said. "You can see the way he acted in the paddock. When he’s on it, he’s on it. Especially the last couple of races when he’s run so good, he’s really touted himself.
"These late developing horses are great; they’re fun, and it looks like he’s got some more fun in front of him. I would consider (the grade I Donn Handicap, at Gulfstream Park, Feb. 6); why not? It’s time to step up, I think.”
The winner paid $8, $3.70, and $3.30. The exacta (6-2) was worth $28 and the trifecta (6-2-5) returned $230.
Storm Play was fourth, followed by Naughty New Yorker, Stud Muffin, and Honour Devil.