Erdenheim Farm's two-time defending winner Dr. Kashnikow bids for a rare Churchill Downs 'hat trick' when he takes on a strong field of veteran turf stars in Sunday's $150,000-added River City Handicap (gr. IIIT).
The 6-year-old gray gelding has traveled from the Maryland stable of his trainer, Dr. John R. S. Fisher, to head an overflow field of 13 stakes veterans in the 1 1/8-mile River City, to be contested on the grass. The cast includes the favored Sharbayan, Better Talk Now, Hard Buck and Della Francesca. Although he has won back-to-back runnings of the River City, Dr. Kashnikow is an outsider in his bid for the 2003 renewal. He has failed to win in seven races since last year's victory which was the veteran's only win in the last two years. But Fisher believes the son of El Gran Senor will be major a factor on Sunday.
"He's doing great - couldn't be doing better," said Fisher. "I think he's in real good form. He's had a very good year. He hasn't won a race, just like last year, but he doesn't run well on 'soft' turf."
Dr. Kashnikow, who is listed at 10-1 in the morning line, will be without the services of injured jockey Robby Albarado, who piloted him to each of his previous River City wins but will miss Sunday's race with a broken hand. Rick Wilson fills in for Albarado.
A win in Sunday's River City would allow Dr. Kashnikow to become just the fourth horse in Churchill Downs' 129 year history to win the same stakes race in three consecutive years. The most recent was Chorwon, who won the Louisville Handicap from 1997-99.
Iron County Farm and Miller Trust's Sharbayan will be the starting high weight at 118 pounds and is the race's tepid morning line favorite at 3-1. Trained by Wally Dollase, the Irish-bred 5-year-old won the Sycamore Breeders' Cup (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland last time out and is unbeaten in four 2003 races. Pat Day has been in the saddle for three of those four wins and will ride again on Sunday.
Other major River City contenders include Brazilian import Hard Buck, unbeaten in two U.S. starts for trainer Ken McPeek; Better Talk Now, winner of Aqueduct's Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIT), and Belmont Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT) winner Della Francesca. Former claiming horse Warleigh carries a five-race winning streak that includes a pair of stakes victories at Louisiana Downs. The 3-year-old False Promises was the winner of the Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) last time out.
The 26th River City Handicap (GIII)
PP. Horse (Weight), Jockey, ML Odds
1. Sharbayan (119), Pat Day, 3-1
2. Hard Buck (118), Brice Blanc, 8-1
3. Dr. Kashnikow (116), Rick Wilson, 10-1
4. Warleigh (117), Corey Lanerie, 5-1
5. Better Talk Now (118), Edgar Prado, 4-1
6. Gretchen's Star (116), Calvin Borel, 12-1
7. Act Of War (115), Curt Bourque, 20-1
8. Bud's Magic (113), Rene Douglas, 30-1
9. Rowans Park (114), Jon McKee, 15-1
10. False Promises (115), Carlos Marquez, Jr., 12-1
11. Della Francesca (116), Jorge Chavez, 5-1
12. Foster's Landing (113), Craig Perret, 20-1
13 (AE) Lacer (111), Terry Thompson, 30-1