Anstu Stables’ Blues Street rallied from behind with a four-wide move around the final turn and kicked clear of his seven rivals in deep stretch to win Saturday’s 34th running of the $111,000 River City Handicap (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by 4 ½ lengths over longshot Allie’s Event.
Robby Albarado rode the winner for his fourth River City Handicap triumph. He also won back-to-back renewals in 2001-02 with Dr. Kashnikow and the 2005 edition aboard America Alive. Retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day holds the River City record with six victories (1982, ’84, ’86, ’91, ’99 and 2000).
Blues Street, a 7-year-old Street Cry gelding trained by Eddie Kenneally, clocked 1 1/8 miles over “firm” going in 1:51.72, which is the slowest River City Handicap in 23 runnings at that distance on the Matt Winn Turf Course. The stakes record is 1:47.90 established by Dr. Kashnikow in 2001.
The River City was Blues Street’s 10th victory in 30 starts and first stakes victory since capturing the Grade II Marvin Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds in March 2010.
“He handled the turf,” Kenneally said. “There was a little give in the ground, even though it was listed as firm. He relaxed nicely behind the pace and he’s got a lot of class – he’s got a lot of back class, this horse. He’s good right now and it worked out well.”
Zimmer, the largest price in the betting at 18-1, led the field of older horses for three-quarters of a mile through fractions of :24.40, :49.29 and 1:14.20. Blues Street only had Allie’s Event beat down the backstretch. As the leaders began to falter into the far turn, Blues Street loomed with a wide rally in the clear to move into contention. He grabbed the lead with a furlong to run and widened his margin in deep stretch.
Eddie gave me the best instructions,” Albarado said. “He said he loves to be on the outside of horses and it was perfect the way it set up with all of the speed in the race. It kind of stretched the race out a little bit. I was just perched on the outside and when he made the lead he kept going. He didn’t wait for anyone.”
Blues Street, the 5-2 second choice and tacking 117 pounds, paid $7.40, $5 and $3.60. Allie’s Event, ridden by Leandro Goncalves at 114, returned $8.60 and $5.80. Gleam of Hope, also 117 with Corey Lanerie up, finished third, 1 ¼ lengths behind the runner-up after being jostled between horses at the start, and paid $4.
Tajaaweed, the 9-5 favorite and 119-pound starting high weight, finished fourth and was followed by Bergerac, Cherokee Lord, Zimmer and Plutonium.
The $66,756 first prize jumped Blues Street’s earnings to $647,383 for Stuart Subotnick, who races under the nom de course Anstu Stables. The Kentucky-bred’s record is 10-7-3 in 30 races.
Racing at Churchill Downs continues Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. EST. The card features a Pick 6 carryover of $3,311 on Races 5-10 and a Super Hi-5 carryover of $7,311 in the finale.
RIVER CITY HANDICAP QUOTES
Robby Albarado, jockey on Blues Street (winner): “(Trainer) Eddie (Kenneally) gave me the best instructions. He said he loves to be on the outside of horses and it was perfect the way it set up with all of the speed in the race. It kind of stretched the race out a little bit. I was just perched on the outside and when he made the lead he kept going. He didn’t wait for anyone.”
Eddie Kenneally, trainer of Blues Street (winner): “He handled the turf course good. He had run one time over this turf course and he didn’t run bad, and it was a Grade I race here on Derby Day a couple of years ago (a fifth-place finish behind General Quarters and Court Vision in the 2009 running of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic). He handled the turf. There was a little give in the ground, even though it was listed as firm. He relaxed nicely behind the pace and he’s go a lot of class, he’s got a lot of back class, this horse. He’s good right now and it worked out well.”
Q: He’s raced sparingly. Has he had any particular issues? “He’s a 7-year-old, he’s going to be eight. So he doesn’t need to race very often. When we ran him opening day at Keeneland, the plan was to give him six weeks and run him back in this race. The timing is ideal – I think six weeks is perfect for a horse like him. He gives everything when he runs, so there’s no real need to run him so often. But he doesn’t really have any issues. He’s just an older horse that needs time, and to run his best race he needs to be fresh.”
Q: Robby said you gave him great instructions and said to keep him outside of horses? “He’s a one-run kind of a horse, and in some of his previous races when he didn’t have an option to go out and the rider chose to go up the middle or the inside and he got stopped. He just doesn’t start real quick. He’s a one-run kind of horse and when he gains momentum, he doesn’t need to be stopped and you’ve got a better shot of not being stopped when you go widest of all. Robby rode him to a T.”
Mike Stidham, trainer of Gleam of Hope (third at 6-1) – “He (Gleam of Hope) ran a decent race. He got bounced around leaving the gate. (Jockey) Corey (Lanerie) said he handled the course all right.”
Dan Peitz, trainer of Tajaaweed (fourth as 9-5 favorite) – He (Tajaaweed) had a rough trip. He was covered up and every time it looked like he had a spot to run someone would run up on the outside of him. We were probably running for second money, though. The winner was pretty impressive. I think with a better trip we could have been second.”
Jesus Castanon, jockey on Tajaaweed (fourth as 9-5 favorite) – “You either get racing luck or you don’t. I had him (Tajaaweed) covered up and thought I had a good shot at the five-sixteenths pole. He gave me a little kick, but he needed to give me more.”