by Keith McCalmont
Not That Brady made his stakes debut a winning one with a prominent effort to capture the $100,000 Damon Runyon on Monday, New Year's Eve at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained and part-owned by Rudy Rodriguez with Michael Imperio and Lianna Stables, Not That Brady has gone from claim to fame for his new connections, winning two of four starts with a front-running approach under jockey Reylu Gutierrez, who picked up his first stakes win on the NYRA circuit.
It was longshot Invaluable Will who was away alertly to set the pace in the one-turn mile for New York-bred juveniles, but he was soon overtaken by Not That Brady, who marked the opening quarter in 23.78 seconds on the sealed main track.
Not That Brady edged away from the field down the backstretch opening up a 3 1/2-length advantage after a half-mile in 47.48 as Pipes, with David Cohen up, began to improve along the rail, and Invaluable Will faded.
Beachside and La Fuerza launched their wide bids wide through the turn with Southern King also getting into gear, but Not That Brady, who established a 1 1/2-length lead at the top of the lane, continued to find more and went on to win by three lengths in a final running time of 1:40.68.
Pipes, game and determined to the wire, nosed out La Fuerza for place in a blanket finish. Southern King, a half-length behind La Fuerza in fourth, finished a head in front of Beachside. Invaluable Will completed the order of finish.
Rodriguez, who finished second to Chad Brown on the NYRA year-end leaderboard with 115 wins in 2018, said he was concerned with Not That Brady's slow start.
"Today, he broke slow again, but I told Reylu [Gutierrez] to chase him out of there and put him in the race early," said Rodriguez. "I was a little concerned when he went 47 [seconds] early, but thankfully, we held on. He's a very good, athletic horse. He's just running right now. Once he learns to break, I think he'll be more solid. Right now, I'm teaching him to take dirt behind, and he takes it good in the morning, but sometimes in the afternoon, it's different.
"We need to do something [for him] to break better. You don't want to give up the break, that's for sure," continued Rodriguez. "When he gets himself in a good rhythm, it's smooth. With the track sealed, I was a little concerned. We got lucky today and that's what counts."
Gutierrez said he was in agreement with the conditioner's assessment of the Damon Runyon.
"He's not the best coming out of the gate. You have to get into him, but he's a horse who has a lot of heart. All credit to him. The more they keep coming, the more he keeps running," said Gutierrez. "He's a heavy horse. Once he gets his stride under him, he gets going. Once I got there, it was fairly easy to rate him."
Gutierrez picked up his first career stakes win on April 28 at Gulfstream Park with Susie Bee in the Powder Break and was emotional after earning his first NYRA circuit stakes score on Monday.
"I tried to be as professional as I could after the wire and keep my emotions in check. But to win here, especially on December 31 and close out the year like this, I had to yell out because I'm so excited right now. I had to contain myself. But when I get into my car after the races, I'll probably blast some music," grinned Gutierrez.
Claimed for $50,000 out of a fourth-place effort in his August 23 debut at Saratoga Race Course, Not That Brady was a disappointing tenth in his first start for new connections in an off-the-turf sprint on October 20 at Belmont Park. After finishing second to Damon Runyon rival Beachside in his follow-up effort in a Big A maiden event on November 10, the improving chestnut has connected in two straight races after graduating last time out by an impressive 11 1/4-lengths.
Not That Brady, bred by KatieRich Farms, banked $55,000 in victory while improving his record to two wins and a second from five starts. He paid $6.10 to win.
Live racing resumes on New Year's Day at the Big A with a 9-race card highlighted by the 149th running of the $150,000 Jerome, a one-turn mile, which marks 2019's first official prep race on the NYRA calendar that is part of New York's "Road to the Kentucky Derby."
Grade 1 Hopeful winner Mind Control headlines a talented field of six for the Jerome, where 10 points will be awarded to the winner, four to the runner-up, two to the third-place finisher and one point given to fourth place for qualifying for the "Run for the Roses" on May 4 at Churchill Downs. First post time on Tuesday's card is 12:20 p.m. with the Jerome slated as Race 8.