Runnin’toluvya emphatically answers questions with Classic score
Runnin’toluvya won the West Virginia Breeders Classic. Photo by Coady Photography.
by Ted Black
Heading into the 32nd edition of the $300,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic at nine furlongs for state-bred older runners, the only question surrounding favored Runnin’toluvya was his ability to navigate the three turns of the Charles Town oval and get beyond seven furlongs for the first time in his 13-race career.
Sent postward as the solid even-money choice from post two under Oscar Flores, Runnin’toluya answered all questions — with an exclamation point — as the four-year-old son of Fiber Sonde owned and trained by Tim Grams and bred by former jockey Leslie Cromer gained command soon after the break, shook loose from one rival on the first turn and another on the clubhouse turn and held safe North Atlantic for a two-length score in 1:52.05. It was his sixth straight win and seventh win from eight starts this year and ninth win in 13 career tries with earnings of nearly $315,000.
“I always knew that he had the ability to get the distance,” Grams said. “The way he trains in the morning, he just does it so easily. I told Oscar when he went out there if he broke well and he could get the half in 48 flat, then he would be cruising and they probably could not get to him. He got a little pressure in the first half-mile, but he was going so easily. He’s probably going to come back for the A Huevo. Once you get them going at a mile and an eighth, you might as well keep them going.”
Runnin’toluvya had won the $50,000 Frank Gall Memorial here on September 22 by nearly six lengths and then worked five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 one week before the Classic. The only concern would be the post position, normally a big factor in the three-turn events that start close to the far turn. When Grams drew post two and North Atlantic, the solid 7-5 second choice for trainer Jeff Runco, got post 10 one year after running second in the same event in a three-way photo won by Charitable Annuity, Grams liked his chances more.
“When I was watching the post position draw, I saw Moonlit Song get post three just inside of Late Night Pow Wow in the Cavada and I thought my filly might be in trouble,” Grams said. “Then when Runnin’toluvya got post two, I knew he could get the lead and would not have to work real hard to get it. He was coming into the race so well. A lot of credit goes to my wife [Judith Grams]. She does a lot of the groundwork for our horses. She’s the main cog in the operation.”
Runnin’toluvya had won the $75,000 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial for state-bred two-year-olds on WVBC night here two years ago, but he suffered an injury in his subsequent start at Laurel Park and did not make a single start last year at age three. He won his four-year-old debut in a one-turn sprint, got narrowly beaten in a two-turn allowance race in the slop in May, and then reeled off four straight victories over allowance foes before taking the Gall handily in his prep for the Classic. Flores has been aboard the Grams trainee in all of those starts.
“When he made the half in 48 and three-quarters in 1:13, I knew it was going to be tough for anyone to go by him,” Flores said. “He was going pretty easily down the backside. I still had a lot of horse going into the far turn. When North Atlantic came to me, I was a little nervous. He’s been running long and winning. But my horse felt really good in the lane. It means a lot to me to win this. I won this race in 2007, then I broke my neck in a spill the next year and missed the Classics and it was a long way back.”
Runnin’toluvya’s victory came roughly 30 minutes after Moonlit Song had been edged in her Cavada title defense by the talented three-year-old filly, Late Night Pow Wow, recent winner of the Grade III, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks three weeks earlier. Grams had won the 2003 edition of the Classic with Cape Power for owner Tex Mullins on the same night that his talented homebred Fancy Buckles had been defeated as the 4-5 choice by Sweet Annuity in the Cavada.
“We have come close to winning them both,” Grams said. “It always feels a little sweeter winning with one of your own. We’ll probably come back with Runnin’toluvya in the A Huevo and who knows, we might try Moonlit Song in the My Sister Pearl. She’s never been a mile and an eighth but she’s such a big filly, I don’t think she would mind trying three turns here.”
In the finale, the nine-furlong $75,000 West Virginia Distaff Handicap for fillies and mares traveling the three-turn distance of nine furlongs, T Rex Express lived up to her role as the 8-5 favorite when she gained command soon after the break and then drew clear in the lane to a two-length score in 1:54.81, a clocking nearly three seconds slower that the one Runnin’toluvya posted in the Classic. A five-year-old Warrior’s Reward mare trained by Jeff Runco for owner David Raim, T Rex Express notched her third win in eight starts this year and now owns 11 wins and nearly $300,000 banked from 27 career outings.