Battle of Hastings ended a 10-race drought when he found clear sailing on the outside through the stretch to win the $111,200 River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) over a firm Churchill Downs turf course Nov. 4.
Ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario, the winning British-bred 4-year-old gelding tallied by 2 1/2 lengths for owner Michael House and new trainer Greg Fox. Formerly based in Southern California with trainer Jeff Mullins, Battle of Hastings recorded his first victory since taking the Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) by a head in July 2009.
Battle of Hastings was traveling comfortably between horses in fifth before advancing through a gap on the final turn and shifting out four wide at the top of the lane. Closing smartly, he grabbed the lead by a head over Allie's Event at the eighth pole. The second choice in the field of eight then kicked clear in the final furlong to win as much the best while completing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48.90.
“I had to be really patient," said Rosario. "That’s what you have to do, because if you’re not patient, it’s not going to happen. He really kicked on after we got clear. I just kind of waited to see how the horse wanted to go and waited for the right time.”
Midnight Mischief, steadied along the inside with three furlongs to run, also shifted to the outside for his finish and came on well for Julien Leparoux to get the place spot by a half-length. Boots Ahead, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, finished a nose in front of Allie's Event for third.
Rahystrada, who won last year's River City at 56-1 odds, weakened to fifth after fighting traffic along the inside as the 8-5 favorite. Expansion, Schramsberg and pacesetter Wise River, who carved even fractions of :23.70, :47.40 and 1:11.67 before giving way, completed the order.
Though he had not won in quite some time, Battle of Hastings had four seconds and two third-place finishes during his losing streak. Training at Keeneland with Fox, the son of Royal Applause--Subya, by Night Shift, had not been out since finishing fourth in the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) Aug. 28 when he was 2 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Richard's Kid over the Polytrack at Del Mar.
Battle of Hastings had run entirely on turf before this summer. His highlights include a victory in the Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT) immediately before the Virginia Derby. Both of those races were at Colonial Downs. The bay's career mark stands at 7-5-2 in 22 starts with earnings of $1,344,216.
"This horse has demonstrated in his previous races that he will make a move in the stretch," Fox said. "For whatever reason the timing didn’t seem to be right for him today. Joel had to be really patient. I have been watching Joel ride a lot and he has an amazing feel for the field as it changes in a race.”
Myriad Communications and New England Stud bred the winner, who collected $66,876 for the River City win, his fifth black-type victory.
Carrying top weight of 121 pounds, Battle of Hastings paid $5.80, $4 and $2.80 while topping a $48.20 exacta. Midnight Mischief, from the Bill Mott barn, returned $7.20 and $5.. Boots Ahead paid $5.60.