Rotknee Rumbles Through Rain for Say Florida Sandy Score

January 28, 2024

Rotknee splashes home for the victory. (Susie Raisher)

By Keith McCalmont

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – William J. Butler’s graded stakes-placed homebred Rotknee stormed to his fifth career stakes score in Sunday’s $100,000 Say Florida Sandy, a seven-furlong sprint for older New York-breds at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Mike Maker and expertly piloted by Jose Lezcano, the 5-year-old Runhappy horse tracked the early foot of Andiamo a Firenze before pouncing to the lead through the turn en route to a four-length score over the sloppy and sealed main track.

Butler credited Lezcano for a perfect trip aboard Rotknee, who improved his record to 17-9-3-1 with the sharp score as the slight 9-5 mutuel favorite. He returned $5.70 for a $2 win bet.

“Jose knows this horse very well. He’s a champ,” Butler said. “He’s [Rotknee] been a lot of fun and loves being in with his New York friends. I would love to see him step it up a notch, but we leave that up to Mike.”

Disarmed broke alertly from post 4 under Ruben Silvera and marked a contentious opening quarter-mile in 23.15 seconds under pressure from Rotknee and Andiamo a Firenze as the field raced six across the wet track. 

Disarm (#4 outside) and Aggregation (#1) make a run to try to catch Rotknee to no avail. (Chelsea Durand).
Disarm (#4 outside) and Aggregation (#1) make a run to try to catch Rotknee to no avail. (Chelsea Durand).

The Luis Rivera, Jr.-piloted Andiamo a Firenze asserted himself to mark the half-mile in 46.78 seconds but a full-of-run Rotknee surged to the lead through the turn, overtaking the game frontrunner en route to a comfortable score in a final time of 1:27.19. 

The multiple stakes-placed Aggregation arrived late to complete the exacta by a neck over Andiamo a Firenze, who was a neck better than fourth-place General Banker. Disarmed and Ocean’s Reserve rounded out the order of finish.

Lezcano has guided Rotknee to four of his wins, including a one-length score over muddy and sealed going in the state-bred Hudson traveling 6 1/2-furlongs here in October. The veteran rider said he was pleased with the effort of the ultra-consistent dark bay.

“He broke very good today and I worried a little bit about the seven-eighths, a little more distance for a three-quarters horse,” Lezcano said. “But today, he was relaxed the whole way and when I asked him, he was gone. The track helped with it being a sealed track to carry him through to the wire.”

Rotknee posted a trio of state-bred stakes scores as a 3-year-old, taking the seven-furlong Damon Runyon here, the seven-furlong Mike Lee at Belmont Park and the six-furlong Ontario County at Finger Lakes. He picked up a graded placing here in November when a close third to fellow New York-bred Bold Journey in the six-furlong Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap.

Klaravich Stables’ Aggregation arrived from a prominent runner-up effort to his Chad Brown-trained stablemate Dr Ardito in the state-bred Alex M. Robb on December 29 here.

Manny Franco guided the 5-year-old Flatter dark bay, bred by Graceville Breeding, from the inside post and worked to get his charge off the rail down the backstretch before rallying seven-wide from the top of the lane.

“The [one] hole that I got wasn’t easy and I just worked on the trip. It is what it is. Just second best,” Franco said.

Rotknee, a half-brother to multiple stakes-winner My Mane Squeeze, is out of the Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-placed A Freud of Mama. He banked $55,000 in victory to take his total purse earnings to $582,955.

Live racing resumes Friday at Aqueduct with an eight-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern. 

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