R Calli Kim victorious in the Long Island (Chelsea Durand)
By Ryan Martin – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— After capturing last year’s Grade 3, $300,000 Long Island with Temple City Terror, trainer Brendan Walsh scored back-to-back wins with her half-sister R Calli Kim who extended her winning streak to four straight in Sunday’s 11-furlong test for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward on the inner turf at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Averill Racing and Two Eight Racing’s R Calli Kim, a 6-year-old Revolutionary mare, arose from an over year long layoff to win in July for a $32,000 tag over the Saratoga inner turf before stepping up in class on August 31 at Kentucky Downs to win a 1 5/16-mile allowance optional claimer. She entered from a 2 3/4-length conquest in a 1 1/2-mile allowance on October 15 at Keeneland.
“It’s pretty cool to win the same stake with two sisters, two years in a row,” Walsh said. “She’s done great and she won with her ears pricked, so we’re delighted with her.”
R Calli Kim broke from post 4 under Jose Ortiz and settled in sixth-of-7 as Vergara had a narrow advantage to the outside of Whatlovelookslike through an opening quarter-mile in 25.14 seconds over the firm going. Passing the stands for the first time, Vergara, under a strong hold from Hall of Famer John Velazquez, extended her lead to a half-length through a half-mile in 49.12.
Down the backside, Vergara maintained her advantage with Unruly Julie ranging up into contention a close third behind Whatlovelookslike through three-quarters in 1:14.68 as R Calli Kim advanced into fifth. Around the far turn, Whatlovelookslike switched leads and rallied back into contention to Vergara’s outside while R Calli Kim was tipped a path wide and in the clear.
Vergara and Whatlovelookslike engaged in a mid-stretch battle with 41-1 longshot Rhombique looming to their outside and R Calli Kim advancing fastest of all to the far outside. R Calli Kim swooped past the two frontrunners inside the final furlong to draw away a 2 1/2-length winner in a final time of 2:14.22.
Rhombique finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Vergara. Whatlovelookslike, Embrace Me, and Unruly Julie rounded out the order of finish. Atomic Blonde was pulled up nearing the wire and was vanned off. She was reported to have bled per NYRA veterinarians.
Ortiz credited Walsh for R Calli Kim’s newfound winning ways. After starting her career in South Florida for trainers Georgina Baxter and Gerald Bennett, she made her debut for Walsh last July at Belmont when finishing third behind Grade 1-placed Higher Truth in an 11-furlong turf allowance.
“She’s a very nice filly. She’s coming around this year, clearly,” said Ortiz, who piloted R Calli Kim for the first time on Sunday afternoon. “The form speaks for itself. Brendan had the key – he started running her on the grass and long and probably she wanted that. She’s Temple City Terror’s half-sister and she won the Long Island last year. Brendan knew that, ran her long on the grass and it seems like she’s another horse.”
Walsh said R Calli Kim has exceeded his expectations this year.
“We had to stop on her last year. We weren’t sure where she was going to go from there, but she came back and has gone from strength to strength through the year,” Walsh said. “To win a Grade 3 like she did today – if you had told me six months ago she was going to do that, I’d have told you that you were absolutely crazy. But she’s gotten better and better as the year has gone on and my hat’s off to her.”
Walsh added that R Calli Kim could be a candidate for long distance graded events on the turf at Gulfstream this winter could be future goals.
“We had this race in mind as the long-term goal this year,” Walsh said. “She looks fantastic and is doing well, so I don’t know if we’ll want to stop on her right now. We might take a look at some of the longer races at Gulfstream over the winter. We’ll enjoy today and talk to the team and come up with a plan.”
Returning $4.40 for a $2 win wager as the favorite, R Calli Kim banked $165,000 in earnings to boost her lifetime earnings past the half-million mark to $517,890. She now brags a record of 13-8-1-2, including a perfect 4-for-4 this year.
Bred in Kentucky by Upson Downs Farm, R Calli Kim was bought for a frugal $9,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Like Temple City Terror, she is out of the More Than Ready mare It Takes Two.
Live racing at Aqueduct Racetrack resumes on Thursday with a nine-race program. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.