Riding the River was Canada's champion turf male of 2012.

Riding the River was Canada's champion turf male of 2012.

Michael Burns Photography

Riding the River Rolls Into Connaught Cup

Canada's champion turf runner starts year against Something Extra May 26 at Woodbine.

Riding the River, Canada's champion turf male of 2012, returns to action in the $200,000 Connaught Cup Stakes (Can-IIT) May 26 at Woodbine.

The Connaught Cup, at seven furlongs on turf, attracted a field of 10 older horses, with Riding the River listed as the 3-1 second choice. Something Extra, 2 1/2-length winner of last year's race in an upset, is pegged as the 5-2 favorite. The Connaught Cup is race 8 on Sunday's Woodbine program with a 4:25 p.m. EDT scheduled post. Also on the card is the $150,000 Marine Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack.

Trained by Dave Cotey for Dominion Bloodstock and partners, Kentucky-bred Riding the River's 2012 season was topped by a pair of grade II scores in the King Edward and Nijinsky Stakes. The gritty bay son of Wiseman's Ferry also finished a closing second, after a troubled trip, in the Play the King Stakes (Can-IIT) won by Big Band Sound.

Riding the River certainly has a flair for the dramatic winning both 2012 starts with weaving stretch runs under regular rider Todd Kabel. Cotey admits the 6-year-old gelding's racing style is not for the faint of heart.

"He always comes from out of it," grinned Cotey. "He seems to relax and make that one big move and most times finds trouble doing it. I imagine he'll run the same way on Sunday."

Riding the River has not been out since rallying from last to finish fourth Sept. 16 in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile Stakes (Can-IT), won by U.S Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

The champion has worked steadily on the Woodbine all-weather track, posting a five-panel breeze in 1:01 flat May 18 in his final Connaught Cup prep.

"Todd knows him well and has worked him three or four times," said Cotey. "So far this year, he's in a lot better order than he was last year. I don't know if he's fit enough to win right off the bat, but we expect him to do well. I know I'll get a good ride from Todd, it's just a matter of whether he's fit enough."

Riding the River and Something Extra carry the top weight assignment of 122 pounds.

Something Extra went gate to wire in last year's Connaught Cup to score at 13-1 odds for trainer Gail Cox, who owns the 5-year-old Indian Charlie gelding along with John Menary.

In his most recent start, Something Extra came from off the pace as the favorite to miss by a nose in the 5 1/2-furlong Shakertown (gr. IIIT) on the Keeneland turf April 13. The favorite, to be ridden by Eurico Da Silva, has a win, two seconds, and a third in four starts on the Woodbine lawn.

Bear Stables and trainer Reade Baker are represented by Bear Tough Tiger, a grade III winner over the Polytrack last fall making his third start on turf, and Bear No Joke, also switching back to grass. Bear No Joke (15-1), who won his only prior start on grass, ran fifth in the Jacques Cartier Stakes April 27, a race in which Bear Tough Tiger (4-1) finished second.

Trainer Michelle Nihei has also entered a pair in Upgrade (8-1) and Artest (20-1). Grade III winner Upgrade, a 6-year-old son of Saint Liam, has made a good living on the lawn with a record of 5-8-3 in 22 attempts. Artest, a 4-year-old son of Hard Spun , won the Quick Call Stakes in July at Saratoga Race Course.

Valentino Beauty, Lockout, Artic Fern, and Hotep complete a classy field.

The Marine Stakes, race 4 on the program, is headed by Queen's Plate hopeful Up With the Birds, the 7-5 morning line favorite for trainer Malcolm Pierce. The Sam-Son Farms homebred captured last fall's Coronation Futurity and is coming off a runner-up effort in the Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) April 5 at Keeneland.

$200,000 Connaught Cup Stakes (Can-IIT, Race 8, 4:25 p.m.), 4 & Up, 7 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Valentino Beauty (KY), J McAleney, 116, B J Minshall, 10/1
2. Bear No Joke (ON), J Stein, 116, R Baker, 15/1
3. Artest (KY), L Contreras, 118, M Nihei, 20/1
4. Lockout (KY), G Boulanger, 118, M E Casse, 15/1
5. Something Extra (KY), E R Da Silva, 122, G Cox, 5/2
6. Upgrade (KY), L Contreras, 120, M Nihei, 8/1
7. Artic Fern (ON), T Pizarro, 116, M Keogh, 20/1
8. Riding the River (KY), T Kabel, 122, D Cotey, 3/1
9. Bear Tough Tiger (FL), J Stein, 120, R Baker, 4/1
10. Hotep (ON), E Wilson, 116, M Pierce, 6/1