Star Track Farm's Grey Comet and David Cassidy's Unswept are the colts to beat in Sunday's $75,000 Damon Runyon for New York-bred juveniles going 1/16 mile at Aqueduct. Both are trained by Gary Contessa and figure to be first and second choice in the wagering. But as Contessa said, "Bettor beware; neither has been two turns."
Grey Comet is undefeated in two starts, including a gate-to-wire victory in the Nov. 10 Great White Way Division of the New York Stallion Series. Unswept's only blemish is his loss to Funny Cide in the Bertram F. Bongard. He was authoritative in wiring an allowance field Nov. 29. Neither horse has won beyond six furlongs.
"I honestly don't know which horse is better in this instance," Contessa said. "I think they augment each other well, but there's no guarantee they'll get two turns until I see it."
The stablemates appear to have a similar, speedy running style on paper, but Contessa believes they will not be entertaining each other on the front end.
"Unswept has more natural speed than Grey Comet and he's a faster breaker," the trainer said. "If someone runs with him through fast fractions, there's no way he'll get two turns. Grey Comet is more relaxed. He made the lead in his last race because I told [Jose] Santos he was the best horse in the race. Grey Comet could be placed anywhere."
Aaron Gryder has ridden both Grey Comet and Unswept and was given the option to choose one for the Damon Runyon. Gryder decided to go with Grey Comet, so C.C. Lopez will takeover on Unswept.
"It wasn't an easy decision," Gryder said. "Unswept won so handily, but Grey Comet worked very well for me and it seemed like he would get the two turns. In this game, we have to make decisions like this. It wasn't something I wanted to be thrown into. You could either look smart or silly; hopefully I'll look smart."
Like Contessa, Todd Pletcher entered a pair for Sunday's feature. Padua Stables' Explicit Action broke his maiden in his last start defeating Success Minister, who came back to notch his first win Thursday. Mary Zuckerman's Chief Cat won his debut back in June and is winless in three stakes tries since.
$75,000 Damon Runyon, New York bred 2-year-old colts & geldings, 1 1/16 mile
PP HORSE, JOCKEY, WGT.
1 Unswept, C.C. Lopez, 116
2 Explicit Action, John Velazquez, 116
3a Chief Cat, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 116
4 Karakorumblackjack, Heberto Castillo Jr., 116
5 Go Rockin' Robin, Mike Luzzi, 116
6 Looking Grand, Alfredo Juarez Jr., 116
7 Grey Pride, Shaun Bridgmohan, 116
8a Tomorrows Banquet, Javier Castellano, 116
9 Grey Comet, Aaron Gryder, 122