Riding the River wins the King Edward Stakes.

Riding the River wins the King Edward Stakes.

Michael Burns

Riding the River Surges to King Edward Repeat

Canadian champion turf runner prevails in tight finish over Valentino Beauty, Hotep.

Riding the River, Canada's reigning male champion grass performer, successfully defended his title in the $195,808 King Edward Stakes (Can-IIT) (VIDEO) at Woodbine June 23 with a final surge to nip Valentino Beauty and the late-charging Hotep.

The photo at the conclusion of the one-mile King Edward found even-money pick Riding the River in front by a head while carrying top weight of 123 pounds. Hotep finished a neck behind runner-up Valentino Beauty at the wire, with So Long George another neck back in fourth. Final time was 1:33.24 over firm turf course.

Teamed with regular rider Todd Kabel, Riding the River raced much closer to a solid pace than he usually does in fourth before challenging for the lead in the stretch and getting up just in time in an entertaining finish. Riding the River, a 6-year-old by Wiseman's Ferry, likes to win them close. He prevailed in both of his wins last year, the King Edward and the Nijinksy (Can-IIT), by a neck in wild stretch runs with Kabel aboard.

Riding the River recorded his first win of the year for trainer David Cotey and owners Dominion Bloodstock, HGHR inc., and Linmac Farm. The bay gelding made his seasonal debut May 26 with a fast-closing second in the seven-furlong Connaught Cup (Can-IIT), his first start in eight months. Riding the River was sidelined by bone bruises last September following a fourth-place finish behind Wise Dan in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile (Can-IT).

"He hasn't had any respect in the past," said Cotey, noting the odds in some of Riding the River's races. "When I saw 6-5, I thought, 'Oh no,' but the old guy took care of him there and bailed us out. I was almost under the table with my eyes shut the last few yards."

Bred in Kentucky by Juliana Orem out of the Rubiano mare Glow Ruby Go, Riding the River was a $3,500 yearling who has now banked $836,296 with a record of 9-3-2 in 22 starts, all at Woodbine.

He came into the King Edward off a five-furlong drill in :59 2/5 with Kabel aboard June 16, tops among 63 moves over Woodbine's Polytrack that morning. Cotey said afterward that it was the best Riding the River had ever worked.

With front-runners enjoying success on the E.P Taylor Turf Course of late, Kabel was intent on keeping Riding the River  close to the pace.

"I was hoping to be closer today, just because of the way the track has been playing," he said. "It tightened up a lot, more than I thought it would have in the last day. We did put speed into him in his last couple works. He's working like he's a 3-year-old."

Valentino Beauty, the 3-1 second choice in the field of nine older horses with Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado aboard, was prominently placed throughout as outsider Incredicat took a narrow early lead with Pender Harbour also attending the pace. Those three vied through honest fractions (:23.41 and :46.20, 1:09.36) with Incredicat leading, while Riding the River maintained his stalking position, advancing three wide on the turn.

Pender Harbour and Valentino Beauty pushed their way to the front in upper stretch but Riding the River was right with them, and soon had his head in the front. Pender Harbour, making his first start in eight months, gave way as Valentino Beauty regained the edge along the inside in deep stretch and inched away. Meantime, Hotep, still eighth at mid-stretch for Emma-Jayne Wilson, had launched a fierce bid on the outside and was surging down the center of the course as they made their way to the line.

Riding the River, however, showed tremendous resolve in coming back while all out under strong urging from Kabel, who notched his fifth King Edward triumph.

"He had me pretty nervous coming down the lane, but once he saw the (Valentino Beauty) come up on the inside, he started digging back in again and wouldn't let him by," Kabel said.

Valentinto Beauty held on well for second over Hotep, who overcame a slow start to just miss. So Long George was in tight on the turn at 34-1 odds and also finished willingly for fourth. Then came Any Given Royal, Lockout, Prospective , Incredicat, and Pender Harbour.

Riding the River paid $4, $2.80, $2.10. Bruce Lunsford's Valentino Beauty, who was fourth in the Connaught Cup last time for trainer Barbara Minshall, returned $3.90 and $2.90, and was part of a chalky $12.10 exacta. Hotep was $3 to show.