Runnin’toluvya carries local hopes in CT Classic
Runnin’toluvya won the WV Breeders Classic in 2018. Photo by Coady Photography.
In the weeks leading up to the latest edition of the Grade 2, $1 million Charles Town Classic, local trainer Tim Grams began contemplating whether or not to try his barn star, Runnin’toluvya, in the richest event at his home track against graded rivals.
A five-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding owned and trained by Grams and bred by former Charles Town jockey Leslie Cromer, Runnin’toluyva has won eight straight races over the Charles Town strip, including the $350,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic and the $50,000 A Huevo Stakes for state-breds at the nine-furlong distance of the Classic. But the Classic will represent an entirely new different class element for the Grams trainee, who has yet to tackle open stakes company and here makes the quantum leap into graded company.
“He’s doing really, really good,” Grams said of Runnin’toluvya, who opened his current campaign by taking the $35,000 Russell Road overnight prep, a potential tuneup for this Saturday’s $100,000 Russell Road. “He came out of that first race really good and I was starting to think about running him in the Classic last week once I saw the nominees for the Classic. It’s definitely going to be his toughest race so far, but he’s doing so good now and there are only so few chances to run for that kind of money and he doesn’t have to ship anywhere to do it.”
Runnin’toluvya, who drew the eight-hole for Saturday’s Classic, is 12-1 on the morning line and will have regular pilot Oscar Flores in the irons.
Grams said he also began contemplating a possible start in the Classic after watching another state-bred star, Late Night Pow Wow, take her show on the road and capture the Grade 3, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes for fillies and mares for trainer Javier Contreras to cap a prolonged win streak that began at Charles Town last summer and included victories in the Grade 3, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks and the $125,000 Cavada. Those victories in open, graded stakes company gave Grams an added boost of confidence that Runnin’toluya could handle graded stakes foes on his home track.
“Watching what she did last fall and again over the winter, Javier’s filly definitely helped me consider it,” Grams said. “When a horse is going good and loves the track, you have to take chances running sometimes in those big races. My horse trains here, and he’s won 11 times here and he’s actually seemed better in the longer races at the end of the year. At first, I wasn’t too sure he could make the body of the race. But with some of those other races going later, it looks like he will get in and he won’t be facing all the really tough ones.”
One morning last weekend, Grams and fellow trainer Jeff Runco, who coincidentally sent out Researcher to win the first two editions of the Charles Town Classic before he was briefly converted into a steeplechaser, were both sitting atop their respective ponies watching horses gallop when the conversation shifted to the upcoming Classic.
“Jeff looked at me and said, ‘You’re going in the big one, aren’t you?'” Grams recalled. “I didn’t answer him right away, but I knew that I couldn’t get away with getting anything past him. I told him I was thinking about it, and he told me to make sure I had him ready for his best race yet. I know he’s doing good and he loves this track, so I’m definitely leaning in that direction.”
Runnin’toluvya returned from a lengthy layoff to win his seasonal debut last year going 4 1/2-furlongs before suffering a narrow setback to William and Mary, a talented James W. Casey trainee, in a two-turn allowance over the strip. But Runnin’toluvya rebounded from that defeat to reel off eight straight victories by a combined 28 lengths, including the $50,000 Frank Gall Memorial, the West Virginia Breeders Classic, the A Huevo then the Russell Road overnight prep. His last two stakes scores last fall were both at the three-turn distance of one-mile and one-eighth, the distance of this Saturday’s $1 million headliner.
“His two best races have been at a mile and an eighth, so hopefully he will run his race this Saturday and be right there with those other horses,” Grams said. “Anytime you put up that kind of purse you know some serious horses are going to be coming. This is our home track and he loves the distance and knows how to handle these turns. That should give us a little edge.”