12/26/2015 3:17PM

Extinct Charm scores around two turns in Damon Runyon


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Gary Contessa had to wait months for the chance to run Extinct Charm around two turns on the dirt. It was worth the wait as Extinct Charm, in his first try under that scenario, won a blanket finish Saturday in the $100,000 Damon Runyon Stakes for New York-bred juveniles at Aqueduct.

Sent off at 12-1 – the longest price in a five-horse field – Extinct Charm was spun three wide by Aaron Gryder turning for home, and he was able to run past the 2-5 favorite Spooked Out while out-finishing fellow longshot E J’s Legacy by a neck. E J’s Legacy, a 10-1 shot, nosed out Taoiseach for second. Taoiseach got third by a head over Spooked Out.

Gehrig, the pacesetter, finished last. Sudden Surprise, the 4-5 morning-line favorite, scratched to run Sunday in the $150,000 Great White Way, a division of the New York Stallion Stakes.

Extinct Charm lost his first seven starts – four sprints on dirt and three routes on turf – before winning an open-company, off-the-turf maiden claimer going a one-turn mile over Aqueduct’s main track Dec. 3. The chance to run two turns against New York-breds was what Contessa was seeking.

“We just don’t get two-turn racing for young horses,” Contessa said afterward. “Me personally, I’d like to see it in June, but it’ll never happen. We’ve been waiting for two turns. He’s a big two-turn horse.”

Extinct Charm, a son of American Lion, sat third along the rail while Gehrig, under Kendrick Carmouche, set modest fractions of 24.09 seconds for the quarter, 49.74 for the half-mile, and 1:15.50 for six furlongs while being prompted by Spooked Out.

Spooked Out, under Manny Franco, took the lead in upper stretch, but he couldn’t pull away, and Extinct Charm from the outside and Taoiseach along the rail went by him late. But it was Extinct Charm and E J’s Legacy moving best at the wire with the former prevailing.

Extinct Charm, owned by John Moirano, William Achenbaum, Monty Foss, and Steven Wecker, covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:44.73 and returned $27.40.

For Gryder, it was his fourth victory in the Damon Runyon and first since 2002, when he won it aboard Grey Comet for Contessa. Gryder said Extinct Charm was emboldened by the outside challenge of E J’s Legacy.

“He was a little late switching leads, but when he did, he started really trying,” said Gryder, a former leading rider over the inner track who has returned for this winter. “I think he felt the pressure of the outside horse and got really competitive.”

Franco, the rider of Spooked Out, said the distance may have been a tad too far for his colt, whose lone win came at six furlongs.

“At the three-eighths pole, I asked him a little bit to see what I got, and he responded good,” Franco said.  “In the last sixteenth, he just got tired.”

As a graduate of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company – where he sold for $55,000 in April – Extinct Charm is eligible for a $100,000 OBS Championship Series at the sales company grounds race Jan. 26. Contessa said Extinct Charm would be shipping to Ocala this coming week to prepare for that race.