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Riordan returns to U.S. with Rod Stewart in the International
Friday, October 09, 2015 - by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Rich Fisher
Trenton, NJ --- Trainer Jerry Riordan and his horse, Rod Stewart, are doing their part to help put the “International” into Saturday’s $1 million International Trot at Yonkers Raceway.

Riordan was born and raised in New England, living in Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts before graduating from Bridgewater College in Virginia. He now lives in Italy and has spent time in Sweden. He comes back to the U.S. with Italian-born Rod Stewart. Together they will try and conquer America as the International Trot returns after a 20-year hiatus.

Post time is 2 p.m. for Saturday’s first race at Yonkers, with the International Trot set for 3:10 p.m. approximately.

Rod Stewart is the longshot at 12-1, but drew the No. 3 post and, as Riordan is quick to point out, “the closer to the rail, the better.”

The 5-year-old Rod Stewart, who has won $467,260 for owner Graziano Ceccaroni, will be driven by Enrico Bellei. Rod Stewart finished second in this season’s Grade 1 European Championship for 5-year-olds.

Off the track, he is the strong, silent type.

“He’s a great big, red teddy bear,” Riordan said. “He’s a stallion that never acts studdy.”

Riordan has worked with Rod Stewart since he was a yearling. Although raised in Normandy, France, he is an Italian registered horse.

“My owners and I went to the farm to buy a yearling or two privately,” Riordan said. “We bought Rod and one other. I always thought the other one was much better. I was wrong. Rod has that racehorse mentality that you never know is there until you start racing. He just wants to beat the other horses.”

The trainer describes his horse as “a typical French-American,” meaning he was not a very good trotter as a youth, but just kept getting better as he matured.

“That’s his French blood; they are not precocious,” Riordan said. “He is not a quick horse but he can carry his speed for a long way, and doesn’t care if he is uncovered. He is a pleasure to work with.”

Photo courtesy of
Rod Stewart enters the International Trot with $467,260 in lifetime earnings.

Riordan is unsure if the horse’s name has anything to do with the British rocker of Maggie May fame. The only clue he has to the moniker is that in Italy, a system is used each year in which the name of the horse must be aligned with a letter, and Rod was born in the R year.

Entering the International Trot, Rod Stewart’s highlight race has been the Prix Leopold Verroken, contested the same day as the Prix d’Amerique at Vincennes.

“He was in front with 200 meters to go in a 2,800 meter race,” Riordan said. “Jean-Michel Bazire was driving. He is as good a driver as anybody in the world. He dropped the right line. He finished the race with just one line. The last 200 he had a horse right at his throat, a driver scrambling to catch the line he dropped, and he still won. He has won more important races but he really showed that day what a racehorse he was.”

Riordan will be on hand for the International Trot, as he arrived in the U.S. on Tuesday. He worked the horse fast on Wednesday and liked the way he felt. Despite the long odds, the trainer is confident.

“His last race was a real clunker but I think we figured out why,” he said. “We will see on Saturday. If he is himself, with the three hole, I think we can get money. Enrico Bellei knows the horse well. He has been the leading driver in Italy for the last 17 years. And he really knows his way around a half-mile track.”

Just as Riordan knows his way around a stable.

Before going to Europe, Riordan was a two-time Hambletonian winner as an assistant to Chuck Sylvester and won the Rising Star Award from the United States Harness Writers Association. He opened his own stable and settled in New York but in 1991 a group of Italian investors, led by prominent U.S. owner Lou Guida, bought into a Riordan horse. For three years he went back and forth from the U.S. to Italy to work with the horse and, in 1994, Jerry and wife Lisa moved to the beautiful land of wine, pasta, olive oil and amore.

“I thought Italy would be a short-term thing but our little son (Kyle, now 21) suddenly became a little Italian,” Riordan said. “He learned to speak Italian and made a lot of friends. And we really liked the Italian lifestyle.

“And back then in the early ’90s racing was really good over there. But more than anything else Lou Guida sponsored the whole project. We were very close and I just felt secure with Lou behind me. I knew I was not going to have to worry about how to feed my family.”

Saturday’s race will be a homecoming in more ways than one for the 58-year-old Yank. He is not only returning to his homeland, but is involved with a race he is very familiar with -- and not in a great way. Riordan had a horse named Crown's Invitation in one of the last International Trots in the 1990s and, well, we’ll let him tell this tale of woe.

“Billyjojimbob was in front and choked down,” Riordan recalled. “He was flat out on the track and everyone missed him except my driver. He got dumped out. My horse ran loose on the track for five or six laps. It was a disaster.

“So the way I look at it, practically anything this time will be an improvement. But I am really proud to be representing Italy. That country embraced me like I was one of them.”

And he will be returning to his adopted country on Sunday. At the completion of the International Trot, Riordan will be scurrying to the airport to catch a flight to Rome, where he has a horse named Tango Negro -- “who I hope you will be hearing of” -- racing in the Italian Derby.

Such is the life for Mr. International.

For more about the International Trot and its participants, please visit the event’s special website here.

Following is the field in post order for the International Trot with listed drivers, trainers and morning line odds:

1. Creatine, Johnny Takter, Jimmy Takter, 4-1
2. Papagayo E, Ulf Ohlsson, Jan Waaler, 5-1
3. Rod Stewart, Enrico Bellei, Jerry Riordan, 12-1
4. Timoko, Bjorn Goop, Richard Westerink, 6-1
5. Bee A Magician, Brian Sears, R. Nifty Norman, 3-1
6. On Track Piraten, Erik Adielsson, Hans Stromberg, 10-1
7. Natural Herbie, Verlin Yoder, Verlin Yoder, 8-1
8. Mosaique Face, Adrian Kolgjini, Adrian Kolgjini, 6-1
9. BBS Sugarlight, Johan Untersteiner, Fredrik Solberg, 6-1
10. Oasis Bi, Orjan Kihlstrom, Stefan Pettersson, 8-1

Note: BBS Sugarlight and Oasis Bi start from the second tier.

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