Robert Courtney Jr.’s Rahystrada, dismissed at odds of 56-1, romped to a 2 ¼-length victory over Rahy’s Attorney to win Friday’s 32nd running of the $112,700 River City Handicap (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Byron Hughes and ridden by Leandro Goncalves, Rahystrada covered the 1 1/8 miles over a Matt Winn Turf Course rated as “firm” in 1:49.18.
Favored Karelian led the field under the wire the first time through a quarter-mile in :24.02 and was still in front after a half-mile in :48.43. However, in the run down the backstretch, Karelian began to drift toward the outside rail under Rajiv Maragh allowing Rahy’s Attorney to grab a brief lead.
Maragh got Karelian straightened out leaving the backstretch and made a swooping move to reclaim the lead from Rahy’s Attorney at the top of the stretch. At that juncture Goncalves, who had been saving ground throughout, split the two leaders and spurted clear and never was seriously challenged in the run to the wire.
The victory was worth $66,382 to the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Rahy and increased his earnings $265,654 with his eighth win in 22 starts.
Rahystrada, who carried 114 pounds, eight fewer than Karelian, who finished eighth, returned mutuels of $115.80, $42.80 and $16.80. Rahy’s Attorney, ridden by Robert Landry, returned $5.40 and $4.40 with Pleasant Strike finishing a nose back in third under Chris DeCarlo and paying $6 to show.
The 21-day Fall Meet concludes Saturday with the 12-race “Stars of Tomorrow II” card for 2-year-olds that begins at 11:30 a.m. (ET).
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE RIVER CITY HANDICAP
LEANDRO GONCALVES, jockey of RAHYSTRADA, winner: “I had a very good trip. When the horses began to split I had an opening and slipped through. I knew going in it was a tough race. I just rode him very confidently and he ran big for me like he always does. All three times that I have been on him I have won. Today was a test to see how good he was. He proved that he fits with these horses. He is really turning into a nice horse.”
Q: How does it feel to get your first Churchill Downs stakes win? “It was such a good feeling to win a stakes at Churchill Downs. No matter if it is a Grade II or Grade III, a stakes win at Churchill Downs means a lot to any jockey. It has always been a great dream of mine to win a stakes at Churchill Downs.”
BYRON HUGHES, trainer of RAHYSTRADA, winner:
Q: Was this a surprise to you? “A bit. We were just hoping to be in the money and he did better than we thought, of course. It was great. We knew he was doing well after his last race so that’s why we ran him and everything worked out. I’ve have him for about a year to a year-and-a-half now and he was doing better than he had before. We went on with him and gave him a shot."
What instructions did you give the jockey? “I said ‘Do what you did last time.’ That’s all! You don’t want to tell ‘em too much. He did it perfect. He saved ground just like the last race. He did everything just right.”
Q: Where’s home? “I’m stabled in Lexington at the [Thoroughbred] Training Center there at Paris Pike.”
Q: Did you bet on him? “Two [dollars] across. And that was because my wife (Tracy) told me to and she’s not here!”
Q: Biggest win? “Yes. First graded stakes and all that good stuff.”
Q: What’s your background? “I’ve been in the horse business all my life. My parents raised us on a farm in Paris (Kentucky). I started training out on the farm. For the last five to eight years I’ve increased my stable. Right now I’ve got about 20 and we’re trying to get better horses. (Owner) Robert Courtney has helped me out quite a bit. I live in Lexington.”
Q: How did you meet Mr. Courtney? “I’ve known him since we were kids almost. When we were young we ran around together and then kind of went our separate ways and got back together a few years ago. His father had a farm in Lexington.”
Q: What gave you the confidence that Rahystrada belonged here? “He’s got the breeding to do it. He’s just been improving for the last three or four races and just getting better and better. Training-wise, he’s been doing really well. He always was meant. Frankie Brothers had him when he was just starting out and he ran him in a stake as a 2-year-old and got third, I think. So he’s always been meant to be a decent horse. He had a few problems along the way but we worked through them and he’s been doing well. He’s supposed to have time off now but we’ll see.”
IAN BLACK, trainer of RAHY’S ATTORNEY, second: “I was happy with him. He ran really well. I don’t know where the winner jumped up from, but that happens in racing, doesn’t it?”
Q: What now for your horse? “I’m going to go to Payson (Florida’s Payson Park) for the first time, so we’ll probably run him in Florida once or twice. Then maybe in here in the spring, or at Keeneland before I come back up.”
ROBERT LANDRY, jockey on RAHY’S ATTORNEY, second: “He ran a tremendous race. The winner came up to us at the top of the stretch and it was like he was shot out of a cannon. My horse was running and he ran on by me. I’m proud of my horse. He ran a great race and had a great trip, but he was just second best today, unfortunately.”
CHRIS DeCARLO, jockey on PLEASANT STRIKE, third: “He ran a perfect trip, but he tries hard all the time. I sat on the rail the whole way and was able to get through, but just couldn’t catch the winner. He (Rahystrada) had a quick turn of foot.”
RUSTY ARNOLD, trainer of KARELIAN, eighth as the favorite: “I have no idea what happened. Rajiv (Maragh) said that he broke sharp, eased over toward the rail and when he got the first turn her just started heading for the outside fence. He’s a 7-year-old and he’s never done anything bad in his life. Rajiv said he ran to the outside and he couldn’t get him – he said he was going to pull him up, but then all at once he dropped back into the race again. After he went around that turn, obviously he was done. Hell, I don’t know what to say.”