(Photo by Adam Coglianese/Leslie Martin)
- G1-placed at 9 furlongs (Florida Derby)
- G2-placed at 1 1/16 miles (Fountain of Youth Stakes)
- Never off the board in 5 starts
- Trainer: Mike Maker (Hansen, Furthest Land, Stately Victor)
- Jockey: Joel Rosario
- Owned by: J. Armando Rodriguez
- Record: 5:2-2-1
- Earnings: $282,200
- Best speed figures: 101 Beyer (Fountain of Youth Stakes), 102 BRIS Figure (Fountain of Youth Stakes), 105 Equibase
Background: The colt with the yellow blinker hood that many dismissed early in the year as too quick-footed to make it this far, General a Rod proved them wrong as the stubborn arch rival of Wildcat Red in the deep, competitive Florida prep races. Named for his owner, Armando Rodriguez, the General and is part of trainer Mike Maker’s two-horse Derby ticket (along with Vicar’s In Trouble).
Prep Schedule: A winner at Keeneland in his October debut, General rallied from the rear of the tightly-grouped pack in a 7-furlong maiden race to prevail by nearly 3 lengths. Switching from poly to dirt at Churchill 5 weeks later, he sat close to the pace to finish 2nd to a late-rallying Conquest Titan. who would next finish runner-up to Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull (II). In his sophomore debut, General kept to a mile in the Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1, dueling most of the way with Wildcat Red to overcome that rival by a head. Stretching out to 1 1/16 miles and trying a graded stake, General ran 2nd to Wildcat Red in another prolonged duel in the Fountain of Youth (II), this time never getting a true edge and missing by a head. Stalking fiercely yet again in the 9-furlong Florida Derby (I), General weakened in the stretch against Wildcat Red as winner Constitution passed them both by, losing the race by 1 1/2 lengths.
Pedigree: General a Rod displays impressive speed given his distance-oriented pedigree, which unlike many others in the field, has been matched for specific lines. Sire Roman Ruler— a son of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus and out of graded stakes producer Silvery Swan, a daughter of Silver Deputy— adds Mr. Prospector to General’s dam’s lines, both sporting rear crosses to Raise a Native, Danzig, and Nashua. All four horses are known to pass on speed that carries over a distance. Roman Ruler, a top middle market sire, has Belmont winner Ruler On Ice to his progeny credit along with graded stakes winners Homeboykris, Artemis Agrotera, Ancient Rome, and Rule. General’s dam is the Dynaformer daughter Dynamite Eyes, who is out of the Mother Goose (II)-placed Meadowlake daughter Buckeye Search. Collaboratively, General a Rod is the most inbred in the field, but done so intelligently to give him speed that can go 9 furlongs or more.
Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A++, Variant: 14.22
Dosage Index: 2.00
Running Style: Stalking
Pros: General a Rod shows unique speed coupled by a very strong stamina family. he has a great-looking physique for pushing into longer distances. His “off” Florida Derby— which really wasn’t all that bad— is excusable due to jockey Rosario’s loss of one of his irons. He also ran well at Churchill Downs, which is always a plus.
Cons: While he has shown ability to ship around and be competitive, I think I’ll be forever suspect of the fast stakes-day main track at Gulfstream this spring meet. It’s entirely possible it could handicap a few horses’ fitness coming into the dirt at Churchill.
Final Word: Speed, stamina, a good race record, and determination all give General a Rod legitimacy as a Kentucky Derby contender as we get closer to the first Saturday in May, but more questions from his visual performances still remain in regards to fitness as he appeared to weaken in the 9-furlong Florida Derby. He could feasibly stay on in the stretch, but I see him getting passed again late.