Sardella’s Column

Godinez Refuses to Lose in Season’s First Month

Trainer Jose Godinez has been a force in the past two years at Saratoga Casino and Raceway, his horses getting their pictures taken with regularity and winning award after award. Following several years of working for several different top flight conditioners, Godinez recorded his first win as a trainer at Saratoga in 2010. Though he only occasionally competed at the Spa for the first couple of seasons, beginning in 2013 we would see Godinez’s name in the program quite often and more and more, his trainees would show up in the winner’s circle.

Godinez finished third in the local trainer standings in his breakout year of 2013. Two of his trainees were named claiming pacers of the year at the Spa (Elodie and Johnny Grippa) for their work that season. Last year, he again had two horses win awards for top claimers. His Shortest Distance was one of the winningest horses in North America and earned honors as the Spa’s top claiming mare on the pace while veteran Clooney Drummond took home the hardware as top claimer for his level. While his stable once again is comprised of plenty of good claimers on both the trot and the pace, Godinez’s trainees are for the most part hard hitting pacers, pacers who dominated the first month of the 2015 racing season at the Spa.

Godinez followed up his breakout ’13 campaign with another terrific season last year and the 32 year old native of Mexico has gotten off to sensational start here in 2015. Aided early on by the exploits of pacing mare Babe’s Chip, Godinez kicked off the campaign in style, scoring a few victories in the season’s opening week. The stats his trainees put up in the first half of March, though, would pale in comparison to the incredible second half of the month Godinez had and much of the recent successes for his barn didn’t come from claimers.

The likeable Godinez often has participants in the Saturday night Open Pace, seemingly rotating several of his top pacers between the Spa and Yonkers Raceway. A few weeks back, Abbeylara, a $15,00 claim for Godinez at Yonkers just a few weeks before, pulled off the mild upset in the Saturday ‘Winners Over’ pace to give the conditioner his first local feature of the season. The first official Open Pace of the year took place on March 21st and Godinez’s RU Ready To Rock was saddled with post position six in his return to town. In ’14, RU Ready To Rock set his seasonal mark at the Spa behind a 1:52.3 score and got off to a solid start to ’15 by recording three victories coming in to his try in the local feature. Taking advantage of an early speed duel, RU Ready To Rock came from well off the pace to prevail in 1:55.1. Later that evening, Godinez’s BJ’s Bequia was a front-running victor in the $15,000 “Winners Over” pace.

Last weekend, Godinez swapped out his previous pair of Saturday winning pacers for a new tandem. Rock Icon was assigned the outside post in the $12,000 conditional pace and swooped the group at odds of 6-1. Like Rock Icon, stablemate BJ’s Guy also came to town off of a victory at Yonkers and drew post five in the six horse Open. Driver Bruce Aldrich Jr, who currently sits second in the driver standings, is the regular reinsman for the Godinez stable and moved BJ’s Guy out to the early lead in a sizzling 26.4 opening quarter. Though Aldrich tried to give him a little breather after sprinting the opening quarter, BJ’s Guy was tested almost every step off the way in the evening’s $18,000 pacing feature but proved to be up to the task. The 1:54.1 victory in the Open completed what was yet another huge night for Godinez whose George Jettison was the runner up in the evening’s “Winners Over” pace. At the conclusion of the first month of the racing season, Godinez statistics are simply staggering. In just 19 March starts, Godinez trainees recorded 10 wins and 4 second place finishes en route to more than $80,000 in purses. The win total currently puts him third in the training standings albeit with by far the highest percentage for conditioners at the top of the list. Godinez’s On The Podium finished second in the Open Trot early on in the month but it has been the pacers who have launched him towards the top of the ’15 trainer standings in what was an incredible first month of the campaign for the young trainer who has been a force in the past couple of years at the Spa.

The live racing schedule will be a bit different this week as the track will be closed on Easter Sunday. There will be a Wednesday card to take the place of the normal Sunday program. Wednesday’s first post time will be 4:00pm just as it will be on Thursday as twilight racing continues this spring. Friday and Saturday night action under the lights will kick off at 6:45pm both nights. There will be Happy Hour Specials on Wednesday and Thursday in conjunction with the earlier post time. Happy Hour will feature $1 draft beers and soft pretzels. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!





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