Millionaire Cosmonaut figures to be the clear favorite in the Nov. 23 River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs. The field of seasoned, older runners features horses bred in Kentucky, California, Canada, England, and Ireland.
Cosmonaut, a 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid , has won back-to-back runnings of the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) the last two years. A versatile runner, the gray or roan horse also prevailed in graded stakes company on the dirt in the 2006 Golden Gate Fields Handicap (gr. III).
Owned by Carl Lizza's Flying Zee Stables, Cosmonaut had been trained by Francois Parsiel, who took over Patrick Biancone's barn while he serves a suspension. However, Cosmonaut is now trained by Carlos Martin.
On the heels of Cosmonaut's successful career is the 5-year-old Military horse Gun Salute, who boasts a record of 7-1-3 from 18 starts. Though he is a three-time graded stakes winner, Gun Salute's last black-type score came in 2005, when he took the Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT). He also won that year's Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) and American Derby (gr. IIT) at Arlington Park.
Trained by Bill Mott and owned by Brant Laue, Gun Salute will enter the River City off an Oct. 21 allowance victory at Keeneland.
Also posing a threat is the Irish-bred Intikhab gelding Ascertain. Launching his career in England, and later racing in Dubai, Ascertain was sent to the United States during his 3-year-old season.
Though he experienced some winless streaks while racing in this country, Ascertain has been on top of his game this year in capturing both the April 27 Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIIT) and the Oct. 21 Remington Green Stakes at Remington Park.
Trained by Niall O'Callaghan, Ascertain is owned by the partnership of Paul Dixon, Dr. Gene Voss, and S.K. Johnston Jr.
Rounding out the field are group III winner Barastraight and stakes winner Brego; graded stakes-placed runners Ra Der Dean, Thorn Song, and Big Prairie; and stakes-placed runners Yate's Black Cat and Skipped Bail.
River City Handicap (gr. IIIT), Churchill Downs, $200,000, Nov. 23, 1 1/8 miles, approximate post time 4:00 p.m. EDT
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Cosmonaut, 122, Edgar Prado
2. Thorn Song, 115, Kent Desormeaux
3. Ascertain, 118, Larry Melancon
4. Big Prairie, 115, Calvin Borel
5. Yate's Black Cat, 114, Robby Albarado
6. Brego, 114, M. Clifton Berry
7. Ra Der Dean, 111, Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr.
8. Gun Salute, 115, Cornelio Velasquez
9. Skipped Bail, 113, Tyler Pizarro
10. Barastraight, 113, Shaun Bridgmohan