(November 22, 2008) – Green Lantern Stables’ Karelian and Amerman Racing Stables’ Demarcation hit the finish line together and dead-heated Saturday in the 32nd running of the $114,400 River City Handicap (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.
Karelian, carrying 119 pounds and ridden by Bill Troilo, swept past favored Thorn Song in the upper stretch and appeared on his way to victory until Demarcation, carrying 117 pounds with Jesus Castanon up, came charging late.
Demarcation appeared to have the edge a jump from the wire, but a final lunge by Karelian created the dead heat, the first in the history of the race. The victory was the first graded stakes victory for Troilo and initial stakes win at Churchill Downs.
The dead heat to win was the first in a stakes race at Churchill Downs since the 2002 Louisville Handicap (GIII) with Pisces and Classic Par.
Karelian, trained by Rusty Arnold, returned payoffs of $6.80, $6.80 and $4.80. Demarcation, trained by Paul McGee, rewarded his backers with mutuels of $30.40, $25.40 and $14.20. Finishing another 1 ½ lengths back in third was Telling, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, who paid $10.60 to show.
Time for the 1 1/8 miles over a firm Matt Winn Turf Course was 1:50.06.
The winners received $44,090 each. Karelian, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Bertrando, won for the eighth time in 16 starts and increased his bankroll to $347,548. Demarcation, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Gulch, won for the sixth time in 19 starts and hiked his earnings to $266,833.
Completing the field of 11 in order were Star Plus, Just as Well, Steve’s Double, Pleasant Strike, Thorn Song, Yate’s Black Cat, Mr. Sidney and Canela.
In the race preceding the River City, Maggi Moss’ Native Ruler benefited from a speed duel between favorites Kelly’s Landing and Euroears and swept to a 4 ¼-length victory in the $55,150 Bet On Sunshine overnight handicap.
Ridden by Jamie Theriot and trained by Chris Richard, Native Ruler completed the six furlongs on a fast main track in 1:08.91 for his eighth victory in 20 starts.
Euroears, who entered the race undefeated in six career starts, and the millionaire Kelly’s Landing dueled through the first quarter of a mile in :21.81 and the half in :44.83 with Native Ruler rating back in third place. Native Ruler collared the pacesetters at the quarter pole and drew clear to easily hold off a late bid by Vicarian.
Native Ruler paid $10, $5.40 and $3.80. Vicarian, ridden by Robby Albarado, returned $6.20 and $4 with Success Success, another 1 ¼ lengths back under Jesus Castanon, returning $4.80 to show. Euroears finished fifth and Kelly’s Landing last in the field of seven.
The winner’s share of $35,546 raised Native Ruler’s earnings to $268,011. Native Ruler is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Elusive Quality out of the Dixieland Band mare Tajannub.
“I had a perfect trip,” Theriot said. “There was plenty of pace in the race. I got a good break and he stalked on the outside. I pushed the button at the quarter pole and he took off.”
Live racing continues Sunday at Churchill Downs with a 10-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. Only five racing dates remain at the 2008 Fall Meet.
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE RIVER CITY HANDICAP
BILL TROILO (Jockey, KARELIAN, dead-heat winner) – “That’s a great pickup mount (scheduled jockey Calvin Borel took off mounts Saturday because of illness). Unfortunately, sometimes we benefit from other people’s misfortunes. Calvin was sick today and it was just unfortunate that he wasn’t on him, but I’m happy for myself.
“That was my first stakes win at Churchill and a lot of seconds and thirds. In fact, this was my first graded stakes win, too. I’ve had [2,455] wins [in 19,933 mounts since 1982] and this was my first graded win. It’s just the way it goes.”
Q: How was the trip?
“He was pretty fresh going into the first turn but he settled nice. I tracked [Thorn Song]. By the time I caught him turning for home, Robby [Albarado] hollered over that he was out of horse. I kind of went on. When I got after him, he was getting a little lazy on me because when [Demarcation] caught us right at the wire he opened again. I think if that horse would have come to me sooner, I think he would have drawn back away from him. It was just unfortunate that he caught me right at the wire.”
Q: Did you think you won the race?
“My honest option is that I thought we got beat. He was outside and, at the time, his horse’s head was in front of me. But my horse had his head down again and I guess that’s what saved us.”
Q: I take it that you’re happy with the dead heat?
“I’m thrilled to death! I galloped out thinking I got beat. This is a gift.”
Q: Is this one of your most exciting victories?
“It’s one of them. I’ve won a few hundred thousand and hundred-and-fifty thousand [dollar] stakes and they’ve been just as exciting. But any time you win a race like this it’s always exciting.
RUSTY ARNOLD (Trainer, KARELIAN, dead-heat winner) – “It’s better than getting beat because I thought he got beat when they hit the wire. We got forced and then [Demarcation] got to us and we got all the head-bob. That’s what it looked like to me. [Demarcation] was definitely in front at the wire. So as it turned out, I was rooting for a dead heat. I knew it was close.”
Q: You liked your horse going into this race, didn’t you?
“I loved my horse. I was shocked that they made [Mr. Sidney] the favorite in the paddock. (Note: Thorn Song was the 5-2 post-time favorite and Mr. Sidney closed as the 7-2 second choice). I was absolutely shocked. I mean my horse, when he’s sound, he’s such a good horse. He’s won half of his starts. He doesn’t run but twice a year, but he’s won half of his starts. He got an awful trip in the Shadwell [Turf Mile at Keeneland] and got beat two lengths. It was not an awful ride, it was an awful trip and just one of those things. He had the 11-hole and we got over and got in trouble. He’s a really, really nice horse. So I did like him.”
Q: What are some of the issues you’ve had to deal with?
“He’s just had a lot of problems. Look at him: he’s got a line drawn about every two or three races. He’s never been beat at Churchill Downs and he probably doesn’t want to go a mile-and-an-eighth. It was a big win for him.”
Q: What about Bill Troilo?
“Billy started with my dad. So I’m happy for him. . . .Billy galloped Wavering Monarch for me in 1982. We go back.” (Note: Wavering Monarch won six of 13 starts and $466,773 including the 1982 Jefferson Cup by seven lengths. He also was 12th in the 1982 Kentucky Derby).
Q: Did you prepare the horse any differently for this race?
“He trained terrific going into this race as he has all year. In his first start back this year he beat Lewis Michael. I know it was an ungraded race but he beat Lewis Michael. It was a great race and then he had the Shadwell which was still another good race and again today. He doesn’t run bad if you look at his form. He never runs bad. He gets hurt but he doesn’t run bad.
Q: Will he run next year?
“He’s a gelding. Until he can’t make a comeback, he’ll be training.”
JESUS CASTANON (jockey, DEMARCATION, dead-heat winner) – “I really thought I got him on the wire. But as soon as we got close to the wire my horse was kind of like coming back and his horse was dropping his head, so that’s what happened.”
“I had a little trouble down the lane. The horse that was in front of me drifted out a little down the lane, and I had to take him to the outside and that probably took a little away from him. But he ran big.”
PAUL McGEE (trainer, DEMARCATION, dead-heat winner)
“He’s a consistent horse. He’s been running well. He ran well in the graded Sea O’ Erin (at Arlington Park) and was a good third behind Thorn Song at the Spring Meet. He’s been a very consistent, hard-running horse all along. It surprised me he was that big of a price today.
“He has won sprinting on the dirt and won on Polytrack, so he’s won on all the surfaces.”
Q: This is fresh now, but what are your thoughts on options now…
“He’ll probably run in something at the Fair Grounds. He’ll go to the Fair Grounds.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN (jockey, TELLING, third)
“I thought he ran very well. I thought we had a shot at the top of the stretch. He gave me a nice little acceleration coming off the turn and I thought we were in a good spot, but the top two ran pretty hard.”
DALE ROMANS (trainer, THORN SONG, eighth as the favorite)
“I don’t know what happened. There’s not much to say about it. He was in position, but didn’t have the finish he needed.”
Q: Was the outside post a concern going in?
“Not really – I can’t blame it. Robby [Albarado] had him over in the three-path on the first turn. I think he might be a little tired. It’s been a long campaign for him and he’s had a good year. He might need a little rest.”
ROBBY ALBARADO (jockey, THORN SONG, eighth as the favorite)
“I had him in what I thought was a good spot, but when I asked him he just didn’t respond. I’m not sure what it was. Maybe he’s telling us something. It’s been a long year and maybe he needs a rest. But he’s had a great year.”
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE BET ON SUNSHINE HANDICAP
JAMIE THERIOT (Jockey, NATIVE RULER, winner) – “I had a perfect trip. There was plenty of pace in the race. I got a good break and he stalked on the outside. I pushed the button at the quarter pole and he took off.”
Q: Is he just a better horse on dirt rather than turf or the synthetic surfaces?
“He is, I think. I’ve never ridden him on turf or Polytrack, but his numbers are nothing close to what he does on the dirt. He looks like he’s a better horse on the main track. The horse is really good right now and doing everything right. He moved forward from his last start and he’s just doing really good right now.”
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