Trainer Juan Andres Rodriguez recently began his training career in the United States after a lengthy career in Venezuela. He will already run a horse in his first stakes race in the United States this Saturday with his filly Chinita Mia in the $85,000 Cassidy Stakes at Calder Casino & Race Course.
Rodriguez easily reached his first training victory in the United States on August 16 at Calder with the mare Desert Witch, who cruised to a 9 ¼-length win in a 1-mile claiming race. His horses have raced 21 times so far. In addition to the one victory, Desert Witch finished second in her next race for Rodriguez; and his other horses have finished third four times.
“Florida is a good place to start. Calder is a good racetrack and it’s very close to my house,” said Rodriguez. “There are the best jockeys here and the best trainers have started their careers here. I began with five (horses) and now I carry 12. We have to keep growing.”
While in Venezuela, Rodriguez had 80 horses under his care.
“I was doing very well, but the situation in Venezuela is very difficult now,” said Rodriguez. “It’s becoming dangerous. That is why I decided to come here.”
In his native Venezuela, Rodriguez was a well-known, leading trainer. In his 20 year Venezuelan training career, Rodriguez reached the 2,000 win mark, with 150 of those victories coming in stakes races. He was a Grade 1-winning trainer and won the Triple Crown in Venezuela four times, including three times with fillies. Rodriguez was also victorious in the Clásico Nuestra Señora de La Chiquinquirá, a prestigious race at the Hipodromo de Santa Rita where he was based.
“It’s the most important race at Hipodromo de Santa Rita, and I have won this stake all four times I’ve ran in it,” said Rodriguez. “Venezuela is a very religious country, so this race is in honor of the Virgen de Chiquinquirá, whose nickname is Chinita. I named the filly in honor of the stakes and the patroness.”
In addition to being her trainer, Rodriguez is co-owner of Chinita Mia in the ownership of Team Work Horseman Group. While the filly has yet to break her maiden, Rodriguez believes that his filly has a good chance in the Cassidy, which is scheduled for 6 furlongs on the main track and reserved for 2-year-old fillies.
“I think the filly is a good filly. I have entered her in other races where the races didn’t fill,” said Rodriguez. “This morning she did very, very good. I think that she is going to have a very good race.”
Rodriguez purchased Chinita Mia for $10,000 at the OBS June sale. Chinita Mia made her career debut at Calder on August 25 in a 5-furlong maiden claiming race. She came back to come up for third in her following race at Calder on September 8 in a 5 ½-furlong maiden claiming race. She will have jockey Ronald Ordonez back aboard, who guided her to her third-place finish. While Ordonez has only one career victory from 47 mounts in the United States, he too had an established successful career as a jockey in Venezuela and was leading jockey three years in a row. He won multiple stakes races for Rodriguez in Venezuela and reached Triple Crown-winning status twice aboard Rodriguez’s horses.
“I trust him a lot; he is a very good jockey,” said Rodriguez. “He has not had the opportunity to show the good jockey that he is yet. I understand that it is very important (to have) an agent here, and he doesn’t have one,” said Rodriguez. “I want to show the potential that he has.”
Rodriguez won 13 leading trainer titles at Santa Rita; he also became the first trainer in Venezuelan history to win training titles at two racetracks in the same year, when he won titles at Santa Rita in Maracaibo and Hipodromo Nacional de Rancho Alegre in Ciudad Bolivar. He was also the leading trainer overall in the country that same year.
“It was very satisfying to win those two titles and be named the leading trainer of Venezuela,” said Rodriguez.
For his career in the United States, Rodriguez has one primary goal in mind.
“The goal always has to be, simply, to go to the top,” said Rodriguez. “The goal is to win races. When you win races, you get more horses and clients. For now, the goal is to win all of the races that I can.”