Green Lantern Stables’ Karelian and American Racing Stables’ Demarcation, head-bobbing to the wire, finished in a dead-heat in the River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) Nov. 22 at Churchill Downs, each of them earning their first career graded stakes win in the process.
Ridden by Bill Troilo, Karelian stalked the pace in the nine-furlong turf event, took over at the top of the lane, and seem poised for victory. But closing with giant strides from the middle of the racetrack under Jesus Castanon, 33-1 longshot Demarcation came up to challenge Karelian inside the sixteenth-pole and had all the momentum to the wire. The photo was unable to separate the two, who shared the winner's cut of the $114,400 event.
Telling, also a big price at 20-1, finished a length back in third under Shaun Bridgmohan. Star Plus was fourth. The final time on the ‘firm’ turf was 1:50.06.
Karelian, who was making just his third start of the year for trainer Rusty Arnold, but had already notched a victory in the Sea O' Erin Stakes July 26 at Arlington Park, sat a comfortable fourth through the backstretch as Steve’s Double, Canela, and post time favorite Thorn Song battled for the lead. Steve’s Double was quickest to the first two calls, posting a quarter-mile in :23.64 and half-mile in :47.56.
Karelian made his winning rounding the far turn, as he came up to challenge the leaders from a three-wide position and eventually tackled Thorn Song after hitting the quarter-pole under Troilo, who only got the mount due to scheduled rider Calvin Borel's illness. The 6-year-old Bertrando gelding had a clear advantage in upper stretch and seemingly had all 10 of his rivals put away.
But Demarcation, who had just one win in eight starts this season, found his best stride rounding the far turn and had his sights set on the leader after being swung six-wide by Castanon. Fourth at the top of the lane, Demarcation easily passed Steve’s Double and Thorn Song before eyeing Karelian. From the naked eye it seemed as if the 4-year-old Gulch gelding got up before the wire, but they ended on even terms.
“It’s better than getting beat because I thought he got beat when they hit the wire," Arnold said. "We got forced and then (Demarcation) got to us and we got all the head-bob. That’s what it looked like to me. (Demarcation) was definitely in front at the wire. So as it turned out, I was rooting for a dead heat. I knew it was close.”
Karelian, a homebred, is out of the Theatrical mare Leaning Tower. He is now 8-2-1 from 16 starts with earnings of $347,548.
Bred in Kentucky by Canard Investments, Demarcation is out of the Boundary mare Divine Lane. The Paul McGee trainee is now 6-3-6 from 19 starts with earnings of $266,833.
“He’s a consistent horse," McGee said. "He’s been running well. He ran well in the graded Sea O’ Erin and was a good third behind Thorn Song at the spring meet. He’s been a very consistent, hard-running horse all along. It surprised me he was that big of a price today."
Thorn Song, who defeated Karelian by 2 1/2 lengths last out when winning the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) Oct. 4 at Keeneland, tired to finish eighth as the 5-2 choice.
Karelian, the 5-1 third choice, paid $6.80, $6.80, and $4.80. Demarcation returned $30.40, $25.40, and $14.20. The Karelian/Demarcation exacta (5-8) paid $147.20, while the Demarcation/Karelian exacta (8-5) was $221.20. Telling paid $10.60 to show.