Piece of My Heart wins the $80K Gardenia at Oaklawn Park in 2020 (Coady Photography)
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Trainer Rudy Rodriguez will send out his newly acquired Piece of My Heart for a try at her second stakes conquest in Saturday’s $125,000 Heavenly Prize, a one-mile main track test for older fillies and mares, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Piece of My Heart, who Rodriguez claimed for $80,000 out of a runner-up effort in a seven-furlong optional claimer on February 10, enters amid a strong run of form that includes a victory three starts back in a January 3 optional claimer and a runner-up effort to then-stablemate Betsy Blue in the Interborough on January 21. The daughter of Flat Out has won or finished second in each of her last six outings.
“She’s good and I’ve been taking her with the pony every day and don’t let her do too much,” said Rodriguez. “She just ran a week ago, so I’m just kind of babying her and trying to keep her happy. This is a good spot for her.”
Rodriguez said he had originally intended to claim Piece of My Heart when she was entered to race here on February 3, but had to change his plans when that card was canceled due to high winds and extreme cold. Rodriguez indicated he had hoped to run the mare in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie tomorrow at Laurel Park if he had claimed her a week prior as he had planned.
The Heavenly Prize will be Piece of My Heart’s first start at one mile since finishing an even fifth in an optional claimer in April 2021 at Oaklawn Park. She has since made 15 starts at sprint distances, but Rodriguez is hopeful her tactical speed will allow her to wire the field under Manny Franco from post 4 in the field of 5.
“I’m going to tell the jockey to put her on the lead and hope for the best,” Rodriguez said. “Coming off the short race, I don’t think that will be a problem for her. If they leave her alone and give her an easy lead, we’ll take it. If they go, she can sit. Hopefully, it works.”
Piece of My Heart, who boasts a 28-4-10-4 record with $394,230 in earnings, is out of the unraced Sunriver mare Intheriver – a half-sister to dual Grade 1-winner Weemissfrankie – and could attract interest as a broodmare once her racing career concludes.
“We got lucky that we got her because there was a four-way shake,” Rodriguez said. “I thought I was going to be the only one at 80, but people want good and consistent horses and I don’t think people hesitate about how much they pay for it. $80,000 is a lot of money, but I think as a broodmare she’s worth that, too.”
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