River Seven wins the Harlan's Holiday Stakes.
<br><a target="blank" href="http://photos.bloodhorse.com/AtTheRaces-1/at-the-races-2013/27257665_QgCqdh#!i=2984238802&k=8GVXnqn">Order This 

River Seven wins the Harlan's Holiday Stakes.
Order This Photo

Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin

River Seven Finds Gulfstream Dirt to Liking

Turf specialist aiming for Donn after four-length romp in Harlan's Holiday Dec. 22.

River Seven overcame a lack of experience on dirt to post a track-record win over a good field in the $100,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes (VIDEO) at odds of 12-1 Dec. 22 at Gulfstream Park.

Tracking the leaders along the inside into the far turn in the 1 1/16-mile test, River Seven made a big move after being angled three wide by jockey Joe Rocco Jr. to get control at the quarter pole. The 3-year-old son of Johannesburg opened up on the field in the drive and held well to post his first dirt win while timed in 1:41.73 on a fast track.

Trained by Nick Gonzalez for Tucci Stables, River Seven defeated defending Harlan's Holiday winner Csaba  by four lengths, with 7-5 favorite Bourbon Courage  running on late to get third in the field of eight.

River Seven has been in great form since moved to the turf this summer by Gonzalez. The bay gelding earned his third consecutive victory following earlier triumphs in the Labeeb Stakes at Woodbine Oct. 19 and the Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) as the favorite at Churchill Downs Nov. 16, both on grass.

In his only prior try on dirt, River Seven ran second to Uncaptured  in the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown at Fort Erie July 30.

"It's quite a thrill," said Gonzalez. "This is my first stakes win at Gulfstream. It was an impressive performance, a track record.

"I was wanting to get him back on the dirt from the time he ran in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie. That option was over in Canada because all we had was Polytrack and turf. We got him on turf and he was a rock star on turf so we couldn't take him off that."

Gonzalez said River Seven will aim for the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 8 at Gulfstream.

River Seven was bred in Ontario by William D. Graham of Windhaven Farm out of the stakes-winning Chester House mare Sans Souci Island. He was bought for $60,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March select 2-year-old sale in 2012 after being originally purchased for $80,000 at Keeneland September a year earlier. He is the first foal produced by his dam, who earned $228,016 in her career.

Reveron was hustled to the front from the outside to lead Casaba and Purple Egg by two lengths early while unfolding quarter mile fractions of :23.64, :47.05, and 1:10.86. River Seven, stalking the leaders in fourth along the inside, made a bold move rounding the bend to easily get the advantage over Csaba, who tried to match strides under Luis Saez. But River Seven, encouraged by Rocco in upper stretch, was 2 1/2 lengths clear at the furlong mark and continued to pour it on to the wire.

"Things worked out really good," Rocco said. "I was able to get close to the rail around the first turn and just followed (Csaba) because I thought he was the horse to beat. He was going so good that when I asked him to step on it he really accelerated. The only horse I was worried about after that was Bourbon Courage because I thought he might come late."

Second choice Csaba, coming off a victory in the Fred Hooper Handicap (gr. III) at Calder Casino & Race Course Dec. 7, finished three lengths ahead of Bourbon Courage and Javier Castellano. Bourbon Courage, adding blinkers, was favored off a fourth-place finish in the Clark Handicap (gr. I) Nov. 29 and finished evenly.

Neck 'n Neck was 4 1/4 lengths farther back in fourth and was followed by Purple Egg, Reveron, Joshua's Comprise, and Sr. Quisqueyano.

River Seven upped his record to 4-5-1 in 13 starts with earnings of $621,926.

Carrying 120 pounds, the winner paid $27, $8.60, and $3.80 while topping a $114.80 exacta with Csaba, the 123-pound high weight who returned $5.20 and $3.20. Bourbon Courage paid $2.40.