Runaway Rumour. (Adam Coglianese)
By Mary Eddy
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Lawrence Goichman’s homebred Runaway Rumour returned to winning ways when making her first start for trainer Linda Rice in Friday’s $125,000 John Hettinger, a nine-furlong turf test for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, at Belmont at the Big A.
Ridden to victory by Jose Lezcano, Runaway Rumour fended off a late inside challenge from Spungie to visit the winner’s circle for the first time since October when she won the state-bred Ticonderoga at Belmont at the Big A. The win marked the third stakes victory for the daughter of Flintshire, who also captured the 2021 Wild Applause against open company at Belmont Park.
“She’s just a classy mare,” said Rice, who took over training duties after the 5-year-old mare had tenures with trainers Jorge Abreu and Horacio De Paz. “We’ve had her for around six weeks or so. She’s trained very nicely. The Goichmans breed terrific New York-breds. They have a great breeding program, and she’s had a terrific career up to this point with Jorge Abreu and Horacio De Paz. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Runaway Rumour exited post 3 in good order and settled in third position while Whatlovelookslike rushed up from the inside to lead the field of six through splits of 25.48 seconds and 52.39 over the firm footing while the Joel Rosario-piloted Spungie, who was angled inward from post 5 at the start for inside position, tracked in second.
Midway down the backstretch, Runaway Rumour was asked by Lezcano to range up to the outside of Spungie and came to even terms with that foe while post-time favorite New Ginya, who steadied slightly heading into the backstretch, inched closer in tandem with Out of Sight while following the run of Runaway Rumour through three-quarters in 1:17.62.
A stubborn Whatlovelookslike relinquished the lead at the top of the lane to Runaway Rumour as New Ginya put away Out of Sight and made a strong bid down the center of the course. Spungie cut the corner and had dead aim on an all-out Runaway Rumour, who drifted in slightly passing the eighth pole under a right-handed crop from Lezcano. Spungie and the resolute Whatelovelookslike continued to give chase, but there was no denying Runaway Rumour, who crossed the wire first by a neck in a final time of 1:51.79.
Spungie held place honors by three-quarter lengths over Whatlovelookslike with New Ginya finishing another half-length back in fourth. Out of Sight and Saratoga Chrome, who was never involved, completed the order of finish. Sweetie and main track-only entrants Sunset Louise, Bustin Bay and Know It All Audrey were scratched.
An objection lodged by Rosario and a stewards’ inquiry into the stretch run resulted in no change to the order of finish.
Rice said the decision by Lezcano to move early down the backstretch proved a winning one.
“I was a little surprised at how slow the first half-mile was, I could see Jose Lezcano felt that there was a slow pace, so he engaged earlier,” said Rice. “I thought he rode a great race. I was also surprised that there was an objection, but I think the stewards made the right call.”
Lezcano added that he did not feel he impeded on the path of the Bill Mott-trained Spungie.
“I never caught his line. I was keeping my horse on my line,” said Lezcano. “When he [Rosario] come to the chute, he goes inside and after that he comes to me, but I never crossed his line. He had plenty of room the whole time.”
Spungie has now placed in four consecutive stakes events against fellow state-breds. Rosario said he believes the daughter of Hard Spun was impeded “a little bit” by Runaway Rumour.
“It looked like she was doing fine. She ran really well,” said Rosario. “She did everything I asked her to do. Too bad we couldn’t get there.”
Runaway Rumour has consistently performed well against stakes company, included a pair of Grade 2 placings when second in Saratoga Race Course’s Lake Placid and Belmont’s Sands Point in 2021, along with seven additional stakes placings against both state-bred and open company. She earned $68,750 for her Hettinger score, boosting her total purse earnings to $571,305 through a record of 21-5-4-5 and returning $15.20 for a $2 win ticket.
Both Rice and Goichman expressed a desire to try for a repeat win in the $200,000 Ticonderoga on October 29, with the latter noting that race will mark the end of the mare’s productive career.
“That will be her last race. She’s been fun,” Goichman said. “It’s always hard to replace a horse that always gives you her best. She’s been a nice girl to be around.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont at the Big A with a nine-race card, featuring the $125,000 Joseph A. Gimma in Race 2 and the $125,000 Bertram F. Bongard in Race 8. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present live coverage and analysis of every day of Belmont at the Big A on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.