Canadian invader River Seven, racing for the first time south of his home country’s border, wore down Frac Daddy near the finish under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan to score a half-length victory over 11 rivals in the 10th running of the $115,400 Commonwealth Turf (Grade III) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the grass Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
Based at Toronto’s Woodbine Race Course, the favored Riven Seven sat behind a slow pace fourth, angled out in the stretch and gradually wore down the front-runners to win and paid $7.40, $4.60 and $3.40. Frac Daddy broke sharply from an outside post, dueled for the early lead and gave way late under Alan Garcia and paid $5 and $3.80. Kaigan, another Canada-based runner ridden by Leandro Goncalves, closed late to finish third and returned $11.40 to show.
Owned by the Tucci Stable of Lou and Carlo Tucci and trained by Nick Gonzalez, River Seven covered the 1 1/16-mile distance on good turf in 1:44.11. The victory by the Ontario-bred son of Johannesburg was his second consecutive stakes triumph and improved his record to 12-3-5-1 and jumped his career earnings to $561,926.
“I thought he’d be second (early), but I looked outside and there were a couple of more speed horses than I anticipated, so I took ahold of him,” Bridgmohan said. “I was just biding my time with him and when we came around the turn in just kind of unfolded in front of us. The horse in front of me kicked on a little bit and made some room and he just finished really well.”
Ruler of Love and Frac Daddy were quickest from the starting gate, but slowed the pace around the first turn and led the field through slow early fractions of :23.90 for the quarter, :49.39 for the half-mile and 1:14.09 for six furlongs. Brighmohan tracked the leaders on River Seven to the head of the stretch, swung out when Frac Daddy quickened and surged to the lead. River Seven gained slowly on the outside of Frac Daddy, caught him inside the final sixteenth of a mile and gradually drew clear. Kaigun, who rallied from eighth, and Moro Tap, who closed from 10th, rallied late but could not threaten the top pair.
Winning Cause finished fifth, and was followed by Dorsett, Braveman, Golden Sabre, Ruler of Love, O’Prado Ole, Layton Register and Formidable Heart.
Golden Sabre, the second betting choice, started poorly and was never a serious factor.
Central Banker was a late scratch and reduced the Commonwealth Turf field to 12 runners.
Racing at Churchill Downs continues Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. ET. It will mark Day 16 of the 25-day Fall Meet.
COMMONWEALTH TURF QUOTES
NICK GONZALEZ, trainer of RIVER SEVEN (winner): “I felt pretty good where we were at. You could see he (Bridgmohan) had lots of horse. He’s a free running horse. It was not a complicated thing where you’ve got to give the rider lots of instructions and stuff. The horse knows his way around there and so does Shaun.”
Q: What made this race attractive? You were heading south for the winter? “It was the only 3-year-old race left and it was on the turf. At Woodbine we’re done with the turf there and we wanted to stay off the synthetic track. Actually I’m very looking forward to running him on the dirt. You can see he’s got tremendous workouts on the dirt.”
Q: What’s it like to win in your first race at Churchill Downs? “It’s an historic place here. Just coming here as a race fan, as I did the past couple of Breeders’ Cups (at Churchill Downs) was an awesome experience for me. If I could find the right words for saying how I feel right now with a victory in a stakes race here as a trainer, I’d probably have to lie to you or make up some crazy word. It’s wild.”
Q: Will your horse run any more this year? “He was going to Florida anyways, either for a layup or a race. Maybe after today it’s probably for another run. He’s in good shape, so we’re going to keep going.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey on RIVER SEVEN (winner): Q: Were you worried about getting him through a 12-horse field? “He was tactical enough. Nick (Gonzalez) brought him here in great shape and he was tactical enough for me to place him wherever I wanted. He left there running. I thought he’d be second, but I looked outside and there were a couple of more speed horses than I anticipated, so I took ahold of him. I was just biding my time with him and when we came around the turn in just kind of unfolded in front of us. The horse in front of me kicked on a little bit and made some room and he just finished really well.”
KENNY McPEEK, trainer of FRAC DADDY (second): “He ran a great race. That’s a really nice horse that beat him. He was one of the ones I was worried about. He kind of had it his own way; the fractions were fair. He’s a nice horse and when things kind of fall his way, he’s tough. He’s going to improve with age.”
ALAN GARCIA, jockey of FRAC DADDY (second): “I think the post position (No. 12) killed me because I had to use him a little out of the gate to get him in position around the first turn. We didn’t want to be too wide. But he ran his race. The winner was a little better tonight.”
NORMAN CASSE, assistant trainer of KAIGUN (third): “Looking at the Form, it looked like we had a pretty legit chance to win. I didn’t understand why we were such a longshot on the board. But he ran his race. Maybe if the race was a little bit longer we would have had him. We had a good trip.”
LEANDRO GONCALVES, jockey of KAIGUN (third): “(My trip) was kind of rough. Around the first turn, he kind of took a hold of the bit. I had to check him three or four times with the slow pace. The whole way we were between horses and had nowhere to go and had to wait. He finished well but I just wish I could get him free earlier to make a longer move. I never had the chance tonight.”
MALCOLM PIERCE, trainer of GOLDEN SABRE (eighth): “(Jockey) Patrick (Husbands) was telling me that he was really struggling around the second turn. He was sitting in good position and then his head came up. That was a lot tighter turn than he’s ever been around in his life. He said that when he leveled off down the lane he came running again but he just had too much to do by then. Anyway, we’ll chalk it up to experience and now he’s had the practice around the tighter turns. I still think he’s going to be a nice horse down the road because we beat the winner in his last race. You don’t right ‘em off after one mediocre race. We’ll be back next year. He’s probably going to go to Florida for a rest and then onto New Orleans.”
PATRICK HUSBANDS, jockey of GOLDEN SABRE (eighth): “I had a nice little trip but around the last turn it was a little bit tight for him and he threw his head up. At Woodbine, the turns are a lot bigger, you know. He lost his position on the far turn When we straightened up he came flying but he had nowhere to go.”