Rotknee gives Butler Showcase double in Hudson; Sterling Silver bounces back in Iroquois

Sunday, October 29th, 2023

Rotknee and Jose Lezcano cruise to victory in Sunday’s Hudson Stakes on Empire Showcase Day. Walter Wlodarczyk/NYRA Photo.

William “Buck” Butler joked with trainer Mike Maker before the final weekend of October rolled around – rain or shine depending on where you were – and came through with a lofty prediction.

“This is hardware weekend,” Butler said after winning his second stakes on Sunday’s Empire Showcase Day card to close the Belmont at the Big A meeting. Rotknee provided the back half of the double in the $150,000 Hudson Stakes, about three hours after his half-sister My Mane Squeeze won the $200,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes.

Butler also celebrated a victory in Saturday’s Best of Ohio Sprint Stakes with his homebred Trojan Tale.

Hardware weekend indeed.

Rotknee put an exclamation point on the stretch with a 1-length victory over Ny Traffic and five others in the $150,000 Hudson going 6 1/2 furlongs. The 4-year-old son of Runhappy, winner of last year’s Damon Runyon, Mike Lee and Ontario County for Butler and Maker, won his third of seven starts in 2023 and eighth overall from 14 starts.

Rotknee won four of five starts at 3 to earn New York-bred champion 3-year-old male honors. He was off from late June 2022 until early March 2023, and the Hudson marked his first start in state-bred company since winning last year’s Ontario County at Finger Lakes.

Buck Butler leads his second Showcase Day winner Sunday after Rotknee took the Hudson. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

“He’s had a little time off there for the last couple of months, but he came back and this is exactly what I was looking for,” Butler said. “Jose [Lezcano] did a great job. He kept his face clean and on a day like today with his speed, we just hung on.”

The 4-1 third choice behind 2021 Hudson winner Ny Traffic and Today’s Flavor, Rotknee settled into second behind the latter through a quick opening quarter-mile in :21.77.

Lezcano allowed Rotknee to make steady progress around the far turn and took over by the half in :44.36, a length in front of Today’s Flavor with the others led by Thin White Duke well back. Rotknee extended his advantage turning for home and found himself 5 1/2 lengths clear in midstretch. Ny Traffic and Thin White Duke cut into that margin late but were never a serious threat to the winner.

Lezcano, aboard Rotknee for his prior four starts that included back-to-back wins followed by back-to-back defeats, learned plenty from the most recent fourth behind Ny Traffic in a 6 ½-furlong open-company optional-allowance Sept. 15 at Aqueduct.

“Last time, I feel like I grabbed him too much,” Lezcano said. “He broke and I tried to really restrain him. Today, I feel like that wouldn’t work, so I let him break and go on with his business. The way the track played today, it played to his favor. The sealed track helped.”

Foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, Rotknee is the second foal out of the winning Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama.

In Spite of Mama’s first foal, the 5-year-old New York-bred Into Mischief colt Lookin for Trouble, was a winner and multiple stakes-placed for Butler and Maker. He earned $170,220.

In Spite of Mama is also the dam of the 3-year-old New York-bred Bolt d’Oro colt Mama’s Gold, a three-time winner in 11 starts with earnings of $118,901; and the 2-year-old Audible filly My Mane Squeeze. She is also the dam of a New York-bred yearling filly by 2019 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will and a weanling full brother to Rotknee born May 11.

In Spite of Mama, an 11-year-old out of the Carson City mare Mama Theresa, went 3-2-2 in 17 starts for Butler and Maker from 2014 to 2016.

Butler bought Mama Theresa for $65,000 at the 2005 OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training. She won six of 25 starts, placed in two stakes and earned $240,898 for Butler and Timothy Twomey and the late trainer Dominic Galluscio. In Spite of Mama is Mama Theresa’s second foal and a half-sister to four other winners, including stakes winner A Freud of Mama, an earner of $399,818 who also finished third in the Grade 3 Matron Stakes at Belmont Park in 2019 for Butler and Maker.

Tom Law


Sterling Silver, DQ’d last time in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom, makes amends in the Iroquois. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

• A consistent performer at the top levels of racing with multiple graded stakes placings, Mark Anderson’s Sterling Silver added a third stakes victory to her resume Sunday in the $150,000 Iroquois on Empire Showcase Day.

The 6 1/2-furlong dirt sprint saw race favorite Sterling Silver drop back early to be last before Javier Castellano piloted her up the outside of the field down the backstretch. The 4-year-old daughter of Cupid was even with the second flight of runners by the time they entered the turn with the leading Leeloo enjoying a 2-length advantage through early fractions of :22.67 and :46.03.

The field tried to close in on Leeloo at the top of the stretch, but she put on another burst of speed, with Sterling Silver the lone pursuer still within a chance. Leeloo didn’t make it easy and Sterling Silver had to spend the whole stretch closing the distance, getting up just in time to win by a neck over Leeloo.

Sterling Silver stopped the clock in 1:16.47 as the top pair finished 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Captainsdaughter. Cairo Sugar finished fourth. Funny How, Vallelujah and Bank On Anna completed the field.

“We were much the best today, it was a good setup,” Castellano said. “They went pretty quick early and she’s a come from behind type of horse, so that helped us. She got up right on the wire. She’s getting better and better. I like the way she does it, especially against New York-breds.”

Trained by Tom Albertrani, Sterling Silver won for the sixth time in 18 starts to go with six placings and $652,988 in earnings.

Sterling Silver has flipped back and forth between New York-bred and graded stakes this year, entering off second via disqualification in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Stakes last out. It was the second straight year she’s placed in the race after finishing third in 2022. Sterling Silver’s graded stakes placings also include a second in the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes and third in the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes.

“She’s very consistent,” Albertrani said. “She only ran one bad race in the [Grade 1] Ballerina at Saratoga, but that was a pretty hot race that day. The way she ran the last time was her best race. She’s just a solid horse. It’s great when she puts in that kind of effort. I always thought six to seven [furlongs] is her game, but probably not more than that.”

Sterling Silver was foaled at Gallagher’s Stud in Ghent and bred by longtime Gallagher’s Stud Farm Manager Mallory Mort and his wife Karen, who had bought her dam Sheet Humor for $14,000 in foal to Midnight Lute at the 2015 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

The fourth foal out of her dam for those owners, Sterling Silver was sold at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Showcase to Anderson’s Anderson Acres out of the Denali Stud consignment.

Unraced herself, Distorted Humor’s Sheet Humor has produced two winners from three to race – with those winners all bred by the Morts. Sheet Humor is out of the Grade 3 winning Sheets, who is out of the stakes-placed One Hot Minute.

Sheet Humor produced a New York-bred Not This Time colt named Rhetorical in 2021 and he sold for $320,000 the following year at the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. Sheet Humor was sold for $3,000 to K.O.I.D. at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall mixed sale and foaled a Central Banker colt in the country the following year for breeder Kim Chang Man.

Melissa Bauer-Herzog

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