After tracking the early leaders through the far turn, favored River Seven edged past Frac Daddy in deep stretch to win the $115,400 Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) the night of Nov. 16 on the turf at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
In his first career start outside Canada, Tucci Stables' River Seven secured his initial U.S. graded stakes win and second straight stakes victory. Guided by Shaun Bridgmohan, the son of Johannesburg overwhelmed eight other 3-year-olds in the Labeeb Stakes Oct. 19, taking that one-mile Woodbine turf race by 10 lengths before Saturday's close victory.
"I felt pretty good where we were at," said trainer Nick Gonzalez, who picked up a graded stakes win in his first-ever start at Churchill. "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."
The back-to-back stakes wins ended a stretch where River Seven placed second in three straight races, including a Canadian classic when beaten by Up With the Birds in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Stakes on the Woodbine turf.
On Saturday, River Seven and Bridgmohan tracked in fourth, within two lengths, while grade I-placed Frac Daddy used some early speed from his outside post in the field of 12 3-year-olds to keep pressure on early leader Ruler of Love through a half-mile in :49.39 and six furlongs in 1:14.09.
Frac Daddy. who entered off an impressive allowance win on the Polytrack at Keeneland, seized the lead coming off the far turn and opened a clear lead in mid-stretch, but he would not be able to hold off the winner. River Seven posted a half-length win over Frac Daddy, completing 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:44.11.
“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.”
Sent off the 5-2 pick, River Seven returned $7.40 to win, $4.60 to place, and $3.40 to show. Frac Daddy held second, returning $5 and $3.80 while 25-1 shot Kaigun rallied for third. He returned $11.40 while finishing one length behind Frac Daddy.
River Seven was bred in Ontario by William D. Graham. Multiple stakes winner River Seven is the first starter for the stakes-winning Chester House mare Sans Souci Island, who already has seen her second starter, 2-year-old Henry's Island, register a win this season.