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Rudy Rodriguez, who trains Derby contender Vyjack, gets Kentucky license

Left: Vyjack, with jockey Joel Rosario, captured the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 2. Right: Verrazano ridden by John Velazquez won at Gulfstream Park in February. The two contenders will face each other Saturday in the Wood.
Left: Vyjack, with jockey Joel Rosario, captured the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 2. Right: Verrazano ridden by John Velazquez won at Gulfstream Park in February. The two contenders will face each other Saturday in the Wood. ASSOCIATED PRESS

After hours of testimony, including some from top Thoroughbred trainer Dale Romans and New York racehorse owner Michael Dubb, a panel of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission voted to recommend licensing Rudolpho "Rudy" Rodriguez, trainer of Kentucky Derby contender Vyjack.

Racing officials stipulated that the horse must have 24-hour surveillance, including video, while on Churchill Downs grounds.

Rodriguez said that having the chance to race in the Derby would mean a great deal. "I'm very optimistic that (Vyjack's) ready to run a big race," he said before the ruling.

Rodriguez finished a 20-day suspension on April 4 for "overages" of Banamine, or flunixin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkiller often used in racehorses.

But another horse he trained tested positive for excessive amounts of the same drug late in March, which could result in a further suspension if New York presses the case.

Rodriguez and his attorney, Karen Murphy, told the license review committee that they believe the horse, Majestic Marquet, was deliberately doped. New York racing officials are investigating.

The Kentucky committee, led by Burr Travis, pressed Rodriguez on that assertion as well as on a 2007 incident involving Wild Desert, a horse trained by Richard Dutrow Jr.

Rodriguez was fined $2,500 by New Jersey racing authorities and suspended for seven days after the horse was surreptitiously shipped from New York to New Jersey to train. A false workout was posted and Rodriguez apparently was the exercise rider involved.

Kentucky officials previously dug into the Wild Desert incident when Dutrow was denied a license to race in Kentucky in 2011.

Trainer Dale Romans said Rodriguez shouldn't be penalized because "his last boss was an idiot" and that Romans has agreed to stable Vyjack in his barn at Churchill.

"Vyjack will run regardless, but Rudy deserves ... to have his name in the program, to make that walk over with their horse," Romans said. "It's the only reason we play the game."

Rodriguez left for Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, where Gotham Stakes winner Vyjack is recovering from a lung infection. He said he would gallop him Wednesday.

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