Rodriguez, Russell Finish at Preakness Meet Top 

May 28, 2024

Apple Picker was a winner in the Skipat for Brittany Russell on Preakness Day. (Anika Miskar/Past The Wire)

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

BALTIMORE, Md. – Jockey Jaime Rodriguez won twice on Monday’s Memorial Day holiday program to clinch his first riding title at historic Pimlico Race Course, while Brittany Russell left Old Hilltop with her third straight leading trainer crown at the prestigious Preakness Meet.

Rodriguez, 33, visited the winner’s circle with Dunvegan Doll ($3) in Race 3 and Magic Michael ($3.40) in Race 8 to finish with 12 wins, three more than runners-up Jorge Ruiz, who won Race 5 on Emirates Road ($3.60), and Sheldon Russell, second with his only mount of the day, Easter Sunday Girl, in Race 2.

“It was a tight race for me. Everybody was pretty much even. It was fun,” Rodriguez said. “All the horses ran good.”

Jaime Rodriguez. Jim McCue/MJC
Jaime Rodriguez after winning the Miracle Wood. (Jim McCue/MJC)

It is the fifth riding title in Maryland for Rodriguez, who earlier this year won Laurel Park’s winter Heritage Meet and was second to then-apprentice J.G. Torrealba at the subsequent spring stand. He previously registered multi-win days at Pimlico May 9, 10 and 26, and also won once each on the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and Preakness (G1) programs May 17-18.

“It’s big on those kinds of days. Even if you don’t win a stake or anything like that, to win one on that day is huge,” he said. “You’ve got to have fun and enjoy it.”

Rodriguez captured three meet titles in Maryland last year and finished leading all jockeys in wins at Laurel and Pimlico with 166 in 2023. The native of Puerto Rico is also a three-time defending champion at Delaware Park who set career highs with 1,102 starters and $8.2 million in purse earnings in 2023, ranking seventh nationally with 237 wins. So far this year he is 96-for-399 with more than $3.2 million in purses earned.

Russell, 34, ran fifth with her lone entrant Monday, first-time starter Buoyant in a Race 5 maiden special weight for 2-year-olds sprinting 4 ½ furlongs. She finished with eight wins from 35 starters, including two-win days on May 12 and 16. Jose Corrales won twice Monday to move into a tie for second with Kieron Magee at six wins.

“It is cool. We kind of point for the meet,” Russell said. “It’s just a fun meet for us. My team works so hard. It’s a lot of work for them. I do have a string here, but we run a lot of horses. I’m just proud of everybody. Everybody worked really hard, and I feel like we deserve it.”

Among Russell’s victories was Apple Picker in the $100,000 Skipat on the Preakness Stakes (G1) undercard May 18. Third on the same program with Prince of Jericho in the $200,000 Chick Lang (G3), Russell earned $7,000 for having the fourth-most points in stakes races in the Maryland Jockey Club’s annual Preakness Weekend trainer bonus series. She won the top prize of $25,000 for having the most points in non-stakes races.

In all she started 23 horses at Pimlico from May 16 to 18, including 19 over Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness days. For good measure, she also won with her lone starter May 18 at Delaware Park, where she keeps a string in addition to Pimlico, Laurel and the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

“That’s the cool thing. I was so busy. I had owners here. I was busy doing that part of it and my team just rolled through those two days with no issues. Everything went off right. Yeah, some ran good and some ran bad but it was a lot of ask of everyone,” she said. “I always say it takes a village. I’ve just built a great team and I’m so glad to have those people behind me because I can’t do it without them.”

Brittany Russell with husband, jockey Sheldon Russell and their children, son Ryan and daughter Edy. (MJC Photo)
Brittany Russell with husband, jockey Sheldon Russell and their children, son Ryan and daughter Edy. (MJC Photo)

Married to Sheldon Russell with two children, Brittany Russell credits assistants Luis Barajas at Laurel, Emma Wolfe at Fair Hill, Sam Hopkins at Delaware and Damon Gladden at Pimlico for being instrumental in the stable’s success.

“You just have to trust your people that they’re going to do the job for you,” she said. “They know what I want and I’m lucky to have such great people around me.”

Russell made history in 2023 as the first woman to lead the annual standings in Maryland with 118 wins at Laurel and Pimlico, setting season highs across the board with 687 starters, 177 wins, 141 seconds, 96 thirds and $7,996,867 in purse earnings, ranking 11th nationally in wins and 16th in money won.

It is Russell’s first meet title this year and seventh overall, four coming at Pimlico. Through the first five months of 2024 she has 52 wins from 247 starters with more than $2.4 million in purses earned.

Jaime Rodriguez and Brittany Russell were honored following Race 6 as Maryland’s leading jockey and trainer for 2023. (Jim McCue/MJC)
Jaime Rodriguez and Brittany Russell were honored following Race 6 as Maryland’s leading jockey and trainer for 2023. (Jim McCue/MJC)

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