Rotknee rolls to Say Florida Sandy victory

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

Rotknee splashes to his latest victory in the NY-bred ranks in Sunday’s $100,000 Say Florida Sandy Stakes. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

When Rotknee’s name appears in the entries for a New York-bred race – particularly a stakes – it’s safe to expect a victory from Buck Butler’s homebred son of Runhappy.

Rotknee returned to the state-bred ranks Sunday and won again, improving to 7-for-8 at the level with a victory in the $100,000 Say Florida Sandy Stakes. The 5-year-old won his fifth New York-bred stakes in the 7-furlong Say Florida Sandy, taking over in the stretch en route to a 4-length victory over Aggregation.

“He’s a champ,” Butler said of Rotknee, who won in 1:27.19 on the sloppy track under Jose Lezcano. “He’s been a lot of fun and loves being in with his New York friends.”

The friends might not be so keen on Rotknee, who won the Damon Runyon Stakes, Mike Lee Stakes and Ontario County Stakes as a 3-year-old and the Hudson Stakes at 4 before his latest victory. Trained by Mike Maker, Rotknee came into the Say Florida Sandy off a third in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap and a second in the Gravesend Stakes, both at Aqueduct and against open company.

Rotknee also improved to 3-for-3 going 7 furlongs, although the added distance after back-to-back tries going 6 furlongs concerned Lezcano.

“I worried a little bit today about the seven-eighths, a little more distance for a three-quarters horse,” he 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.”

The 9-5 favorite in the field of six just ahead of Aggregation at the same price, Rotknee rated just off the early speed of Disarmed with Andiamo a Firenze mixing it up early though the opening quarter-mile in :23.15. Andiamo a Firenze, claimed for $62,500 last time out by trainer David Duggan, came away with the lead approaching the half in :46.78 with Rotknee keeping close tabs around the far turn.

Rotknee took command near the 5/16ths pole and rolled into the stretch at least five paths off the rail. He opened up 3 lengths in midstretch, passed 6 furlongs in 1:12.90 and stayed well clear late as Aggregation got up for second by a neck over Andiamo a Firenze with General Banker another neck back in fourth. Disarmed and Ocean’s Reserve completed the field.

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

In Spite of Mama is also the dam of the 3-year-old Audible filly My Mane Squeeze, the winner of three of five starts after her recent score in the Franklin Square Stakes at Aqueduct for Butler and Maker. An earner of $238,960, she also won the Maid of the Mist Stakes on the same Empire Showcase Day card where Rotknee won the Hudson.

In Spite of Mama’s first foal, the 6-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 4-year-old New York-bred Bolt d’Oro colt Mama’s Gold, a four-time winner in 14 starts with earnings of $168,641; and a New York-bred 2-year-old filly by 2019 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will and a yearling full brother to Rotknee.

In Spite of Mama, a 12-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.

Rotknee earned $55,000 for his latest victory to boost his earnings to $582,955. He’s won nine of 17 starts overall. As for that lone defeat in the state-bred ranks? That goes all the way back to Rotknee’s debut July 9, 2021, when he finished second by 3 lengths as the favorite in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race at Belmont Park.

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