Thatcher Street capped a big day at Churchill Downs for Australian-born trainer Ian Wilkes when his 5-year-old gelding came back to beat chief rival Pleuven by a half-length to win the $100,000 River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) Nov. 24.
In May, Thatcher Street beat Pleuven by the same margin in Churchill's Opening Verse overnight stakes.
"Those are two great horses that keep beating each other," said Pleuven's trainer, Phil Sims. "They go back and forth, trading places."
Thatcher Street, a son of Street Sense whom Nafzger and Wilkes handled during his 2007 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victory, ran 1 1/8 miles over firm turf in 1:51.45. Brian Hernandez Jr. rode the winner for owners Randall Bloch, Phil Milner, John Seiler, and Fred Merritt's Amtietan LLC. The victory avenged a two-length, runner-up loss to Heart to Heart in last year's River City.
Roman Approval dictated the early pace and led the field of 13 3-year-olds and older through fractions of :24.15, :49.12, and 1:14.03, with Thatcher Street in close pursuit to his outside in third. Thatcher Street took the lead leaving the far turn only to lose it briefly, when Pleuven slipped through the inside and stuck his nose in front. Thatcher Street, however, re-rallied and surged past his rival inside in the final sixteenth and turned back late runs by 2-1 favorite The Pizza Man and Taghleeb, who finished third and fourth, respectively.
The victory increased the Kentucky-bred's earnings to $388,832. He boasts a record of 5-7-8 in 26 starts, and has now won four of his seven starts over the Churchill turf course, with two seconds and a third. It was his first graded stakes victory.
"He loves this turf course and he really brings his 'A' game every time," Wilkes said. "It's great to have such nice horses. We've got real nice horses and that's what it's all about. They're all tremendous, they've run real well, and I'm just so proud of them."
Thatcher Street returned $16.40, $7.60, and $4.40 as the 7-1 fourth betting choice. Pleuven returned $4.60 and $3. The Pizza Man was another half-length back and paid $2.80 to show.
Taghleeb, Dac, Coco Mon, Bullards Alley, Dubai Sky, Croninthebarbarian, Behesht, Roman Approval, Dujac, and One Go All Go completed the order of finish. Are You Kidding Me, Allied Air Raid, and Granny's Kitten were scratched.