‘Bert’ Bests ‘llama’ in Damon Runyon; ‘Kelli’ Easily Wins East View
By Jon Forbes | 12/09/2012 06:31 PM ET
Smooth Bert made a late charge to defeat Notacatbutallama in the $80,000 Damon Runyon, and Kelli Got Frosty proved much the best in the $80,000 East View on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Both races were contested at one mile on the sloppy main track and featured New York-bred 2-year-olds, with the East View restricted to fillies.
Smooth Bert was kept in the clear by jockey Michael Luzzi as he raced into second behind favored In Harm’s Way along the backstretch. Passed by Notacatbutallama at the quarter pole, Smooth Bert came again along the inside when the top two grew weary late, forging to the front forty yards from the wire to win by three-quarters of a length.
“Just by going on what [trainer] Leah [Gyarmati] and her assistant, Herbie, said, he’s very talented, but he’s still kind of green,” said Luzzi. “He really doesn’t know what he’s doing yet. He kind of lost focus, then Rajiv [Maragh, aboard Notacatbutallama] went by me and he kind of gained his focus back and went back to running. Very talented horse, and I think he’ll improve.”
Smooth Bert, the 4-1 third choice, paid $10.40 for a $2 win wager and completed the distance in 1:39.70.
The Damon Runyon was fourth start on an off track for Smooth Bert, who was third in the slop in his debut at Saratoga Race Course, broke his maiden by 4 ¾ lengths on October 4 at Belmont Park over sloppy ground in his third start, and was fifth in the Bertram F. Bongard over Belmont’s “good” main track on October 20. In his lone fast track start, he was second in an off-the-turf race in September at Belmont.
“The first time at Saratoga at five furlongs was way too short, but he still handled the slop and came running and finished third,” said Gyarmati, who trains Smooth Bert for Bona Venture Stables. “He’s a neat horse. He can probably do anything once he figures it all out. The longer, the better, and he has some speed if you want him to use it. He’s very athletic. He looks like a 5-year-old, but he’s not clumsy. He’s not one of those big horses where it takes a lot for him to get into himself. Right from the beginning, he’s been athletic.”
Smooth Bert, a son of Smooth Jazz, earned $48,000 for his Damon Runyon win, pushing his bankroll to $104,430.
James Jingle passed In Harm’s Way late to finish third. Giant Finish, Reaching Out, Laila’s Jazz, and Meeker Avenue completed the running order. Lucci the Lion was scratched.
Kelli Got Frosty, by Frost Giant, had an uneventful journey in the East View, seizing command early, setting a steady pace, and extending her advantage at every call to win by 9 ½ lengths. Agilion was five lengths clear of third-place finisher Bit Bustin.
“There wasn’t much speed in the race; I tried running in behind the speed, but it was a slow pace and she made the lead easy,” said Cornelio Velasquez, winning jockey aboard Kelli Got Frosty. “I had the best horse; she galloped and won easy. She’s a nice filly and she loves the mud.”
Off as the 2-5 favorite, Kelli Got Frosty returned $2.80 and covered the one-mile trip in 1:39.19.
Kelli Got Frosty debuted in a stakes, finishing fourth in the Lady Finger in September at Finger Lakes. After airing by 14 lengths in a muddy, off-the-turf maiden event on October 4 at Belmont, she was third in that venue’s Joseph A. Gimma on October 20 and won the NYSS Fifth Avenue by a half-length on November 11 at Aqueduct.
“I’m very happy with the way she’s coming along,” said trainer Rudy Rodriguez. “I’m thankful to the owners for giving me the opportunity to train her, and she’s a very nice filly. I think she’ll be fine going two turns. I think the longer she goes, she’ll get more comfortable. We really liked her from Day 1, and she has not disappointed us yet.”
Kelli Got Frosty races for owners Andrew I. Cohen, Lee Sacks, Aubrey Flanagan, and Gary Tolchin. She has earned $175,944 to date.
Jerusalem Stone was fourth, followed home by Carameaway and Flattermewithroses. Star Black was scratched.