River's Prayer Answers Polytrack Issue in 'Bernardo

River's Prayer Answers Polytrack Issue in 'Bernardo
Photo: Benoit
River's Prayer adds Polytrack win in 'Bernardo squeaker.
Order This Photo
The biggest concern for trainer Paula Capestro heading into the $200,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) was how her red-hot filly River's Prayer would handle Del Mar's Polytrack in her first start on a synthetic surface. In spite of drifting out some late, the California-bred proved best while winning her fifth successive race Aug. 17 by a half-length over Strong Faith.

Clinton Potts has been aboard River's Prayer for all five of the victories during the streak and seven of the filly's wins overall. The time for the 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack was a meet-best 1:17 4/5.

Potts can attest to how 4-year-old has matured. Less than a year ago at Del Mar, a rambunctious River's Prayer stumbled while trying to pop the gate at the start of the Torrey Pines Stakes, then knocked the rider out cold when she threw her head back to regain her balance.

But there are no hard feelings. "When I first started to ride her she was very aggressive. She wanted to go," Potts said. "But now she’s showing the ability to rate, to sit off them and bide her time.

"Horses like her are what make this job worthwhile."

After breaking on the lead, River's Prayer settled into second on the outside under a tight hold from Potts and tracked Lady Gamer and David Flores through a quarter-mile in :22 3/5 and the half in :46, quick splits for the Del Mar main track. They were followed by Strong Faith, Bettarun Fast and 8-5 favorite Pussycat Doll in the compact field of five. Rounding the bend, River's Prayer was ready to attack and she moved up easily on the outside of Lady Gamer when Potts let the reins out a notch. She got the lead in upper stretch and inched clear but appeared to tire a bit through the lane, perhaps fatigued by chasing the early fractions. Under right-handed urging through the final furlong, River's Prayer drifted out as Strong Faith and Martin Garcia closed with every stride in the middle of the track. River's Prayer reached the wire in time with Strong Faith still gaining.

Potts said he was not worried about the challenge.

"It’s so hard to win on the front end here, you’ve got to save something," Potts said. "She did that for me today. I’ll call her a great filly. There’s not doubt about that in my mind."

Lady Gamer held on for third, 4 3/4 lengths farther back, with Pussycat Doll struggling home fourth, seven lengths behind the winner. A three-time grade I winner, the Bob Baffert trainee Pussycat Doll finished sixth as the odds-on choice in the A Gleam Handicap (gr. II) on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track in her previous start July 6. She appeared to be in striking position as jockey Joe Talamo angled her out for the stretch run, but she failed to respond.

“She was just spinning her wheels out there," Talamo said. "She just never got into it.”

River's Prayer won the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) as an 11-1 underdog on a good track at Calder Race Course in her previous start July 7. The gray filly is eventually headed for the new $1-million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park Oct. 26, according to Capestro, who owns the daughter of Devon Lane--Cozzy Flyer (Cozzene) in partnership with Bantry Farms and Martin Racing. Before that, Capestro said she is considering send the versatile River's Prayer down the Santa Anita hillside turf course in the Senator Ken Maddy (gr. IIIT) at Oak Tree Sept. 26. River's Prayer has won all three of her starts over the hillside layout, including the Las Cienegas Handicap (gr. IIIT) in April.

"She’s all racehorse," Capestro said. "Our job is just to keep her healthy and happy. I’m trying to find a time to give her a little break, so I may or may not run in the Ken Maddy. I want to make sure she’s super-fresh for the Breeders’ Cup.”

Overall, River's Prayer, a $15,000 Barretts buy in October 2004, has won nine of 16 races lifetime with earnings of $921,958. Vessels Stallion Farm bred her.

Sent off as the second choice, she paid $6.20, $3.20 and $2.80. Strong Faith, who was second in the A Gleam as well for trainer Jeff Mullins, returned $4 and $3.20. Lady Gamer, who has a three-race win streak snapped, was $3.40 to show.

Bettarun Fast trailed Pussycat Doll across the line, while Candy Jo and Red Diadem both scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)

Most Popular Stories