by Keith McCalmont
Knollwood Stables’ What’s Up Bro brings winning form to his stakes debut in Sunday’s $100,000 Damon Runyon, a six-furlong sprint for New York-bred sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Robert Klesaris, the Dialed In gelding will look to provide a first stakes win for his conditioner since Cinnamon Charlie captured the 2005 Hildene at Laurel Park.
Klesaris, who took a break from training in 2007 and returned in 2019 after working as a jockey agent, is overseeing a stable of 16 horses split between New York and Maryland.
“Once you get going, it keeps multiplying, but I'm not really interested in training 50-60 horses anymore,” Klesaris said. “He's [What’s Up Bro] probably my best horse as we speak. I think he'll be competitive Sunday.”
What’s Up Bro graduated at second asking in a 6 1/2-furlong state-bred maiden sprint on December 10 here, drawing off to an eight-length score over next-out winner Quick Chaos.
He followed with a pacesetting third in a six-furlong sprint on January 15 at the Big A won by returning rival D’ont Lose Cruz, who bested multiple stakes-placed Starquist. Although he didn’t set swift splits that day, dueling through a half-mile in 48.60 seconds, Klesaris said What’s Up Bro didn’t appreciate the prominent trip.
"It was a deep track and we had single-digit weather. I don't think a lot of horses handled the track,” Klesaris said. “But not only that, he battled head and head for the lead and I don't think that's the way he wants to run. All in all, he got beat by two good horses that day and I thought he held on well for third."
What’s Up Bro returned to form here last out with a perfect stalking trip from third position under Dylan Davis in a six-furlong state-bred optional-claiming sprint on February 20. Returning rival Looms Boldly and longshot Kaz Palace dueled to a half-mile in 46.62 before Davis angled What’s Up Bro five-wide for the stretch drive, taking command with an eighth to run en route to a 3 1/4-length win in a final time of 1:12.07.
Klesaris said Davis engineered a made-to-order trip.
"I didn't want him battling for the lead,” Klesaris said. “He was right back off the pace, tipped to the outside and finished up very strongly. He showed his stuff, really.”
Klesaris said a good effort Sunday could see What’s Up Bro stretch out in distance going forward.
"I think the intention will be to eventually go long, but we're taking it one race at a time. He's kind of been good race, bad race," Klesaris said.
What’s Up Bro breezed back an easy five-eighths in 1:03 flat on Friday over the dirt training track at Belmont Park.
“So far, so good. I don't have to do much with him. He's on go,” Klesaris said.
What's Up Bro, a half-brother to stakes-winner Eagle Orb, is out of the stakes-placed Harlan's Holiday mare Lady On Holiday, who is a half-sister to graded-stakes winner Bold Start. What's Up Bro was purchased for $55,000 at the 2021 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale.
Davis retains the mount from the inside post aboard What’s Up Bro, who is assigned 120 pounds.
Trainer Kelly Breen, who is one win shy of 1,000 for his career, will saddle a pair of homebreds for Mr. Amore Stable in graded-stakes placed Andiamo a Firenze [post 3, Trevor McCarthy, 122 pounds] and maiden winner East Coast Girl [post 4, Jose Gomez, 118 pounds].
Andiamo a Firenze, by Speightstown and out of the Langfuhr mare My Every Wish, is a three-quarter brother to Grade 1-winner Firenze Fire, who was also campaigned by Breen and Mr. Amore Stable.
The dark bay impressed on debut, sprinting to a four-length score in June over a sloppy and sealed main track at Belmont. He finished third in the six-furlong Grade 3 Sanford in July at Saratoga Race Course before an emphatic 5 1/2-length win in the state-bred Funny Cide presented by Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in August, which was contested at 6 1/2-furlongs over a muddy and sealed Spa main track.
Andiamo a Firenze completed a solid juvenile campaign with a pair of October starts, finishing a distant fourth in the one-mile Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont at the Big A before a narrow nose defeat to Acoustic Ave in the six-furlong New York Breeders’ Futurity at Finger Lakes Racetrack. Acoustic Ave exited that event to win the Notebook at Aqueduct to cap a three-race all-stakes win streak.
Andiamo a Firenze has yet to hit the board in two Aqueduct starts this year, landing fifth in the one-mile Jerome on January 7 and fourth last out on February 11 in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Withers.
East Coast Girl, by Laoban and out of the stakes-placed City Place mare Myakka City, returns on short rest from a close runner-up effort in an optional-claiming sprint on March 5 at the Big A.
The dark bay ridgling was a runaway 11 1/4-length winner of a state-bred maiden claiming sprint on January 27 at Aqueduct that garnered a career-best 79 Beyer.
Clear Stars Stable, Mitre Box Stable, Big Toe Stables and Koshanostra Stables’ stakes-placed New York-bred D’ont Lose Cruz [post 5, Kendrick Carmouche, 120 pounds] will return to sprinting following a pacesetting fourth-place effort in the one-turn mile Gander on February 25 at Aqueduct.
Trained by David Duggan, the Always Dreaming gelding made his first four starts at six furlongs at the Big A, of which the first three came under the care of now retired trainer Rick Schosberg. He was a game second in the Notebook in November before adding blinkers and making a winning debut for Duggan in the aforementioned optional-claimer, closing strongly to best Starquist and What’s Up Bro.
Bred by Southern Oak Farm, the $100,000 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase is out of the multiple stakes-winning D’Wildcat mare D’Wild Ride.
Rounding out the field are Finger Lakes’ maiden winner Bobby Ride [post 6, Jacqueline Davis, 118 pounds] for trainer Karl Grusmark; and maiden winner Looms Boldly [post 2, Manny Franco, 118 pounds] for conditioner Brad Cox.
The Damon Runyon is slated as Race 8 on Sunday’s nine-race card. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.
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