Trainer Rodriguez suspended

New York state regulators have imposed a 20-day suspension and $7,500 fine on top Aqueduct Racetrack trainer Rudy Rodriguez after flunixin was found in his horses at two separate races last year.

Rodriguez came into the limelight recently when he won the March 2 Gotham Stakes with Vyjack. That was the horse's fourth victory in as many starts and puts him on track to start in the Kentucky Derby.

The New York State Gaming Commission had originally imposed a 40-day suspension on Rodriguez. He will not have to serve the other 20 days if there are no other drug positives in horses he trains in the next year.

Post-race samples revealed positive findings of the drug flunixin, known by several trade names including Banamine, in Heiden, who finished first in the 11th race at Aqueduct last April 7, and Alston Gunter, who finished third in the first race at Aqueduct Nov. 21. The ruling also disqualifies the horses in those races.

Flunixin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat horses with musculo-skeletal disorders and colic.

Rodriguez, the leading trainer in the current Aqueduct meet, is a former employee of Rick Dutrow Jr., the trainer who is serving a 10-year suspension after New York regulators said he had committed a variety of racing rule violations.

In a notice made public March 13, the state ordered Rodriguez, a former jockey, not to have any direct or indirect role in horse racing for the 20-day period beginning March 16. He also is not allowed on the grounds of any racetrack during the period or to share in any purse or other payments. Any horses owned or trained by Rodriguez are also banned during the period from being on any racetrack grounds.

However, the stewards do have the discretion to permit Rodriguez to transfer the training of his horses to another trainer, which they have in this case by allowing the suspended trainer's brother, Gustavo Rodriguez, to take charge of the horses. Officials said Gustavo Rodriguez has obtained a workers compensation certificate and will be paying the payroll of his brother's employees during the suspension period.

Regulators said various financial records will be checked before, during, and after the suspension to ensure Rudy Rodriguez has no direct or indirect role in the training operations.