The comeback victory by Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein's De Bertie in Tuesday's feature race probably earned the 4-year-old De Niro filly a spot in the gate for Churchill Downs' $250,000 Falls City Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares on Thanksgiving day.
Regardless of what happens in that race, De Bertie will occupy a special place in the heart of trainer Steve Flint because she provided him with the first victory of his training career.
The 40-year-old Flint went out on his own early this fall after spending many years as the top assistant to his father, veteran Kentucky trainer Bernie Flint. All De Bertie had to do to give Flint his first official win was make a successful return from an eight-month layoff and survive a stretch-long duel with the favored Maltese Superb and Churchill Downs' all-time leading rider, Pat Day.
"When I worked for dad we won a lot of big races and I felt excited for the filly more than myself because she came through this long layoff to run that kind of race," said Flint. "But when I got in the car it kind of hit me. I called my wife and said 'You know, it feels different.' You always feel some sort of accomplishment. Even when you're an assistant, you've still got a big part to do with the horse. But it's not really your horse, you matter how much you do with it. With this, it just felt like it was one of my kids. It felt great and I was really happy about it."
De Bertie extended her winning streak to three, including the Rampart Handicap (gr. II) and Sabin Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. Her record now stands at 7-3-3 in 17 races with one race to go this year.
"We've got to try the Falls City," Flint said. "She likes the track. She's fresh and she can't look any better than she looks right now."