River Seven Hits Pay Dirt in Sunday's $100,000 Harlan's Holiday
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – River Seven has established himself as an exciting turf performer during 2013, but trainer Nick Gonzalez had an inkling that the 3-year-old gelding might be much more than just a standout runner on grass.“
I was wanting to get him back on the dirt from the time he ran in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie,” said Gonzalez, referring to his gelding’s lone dirt start, a second-place finish in the second leg of Canada’s Triple Crown. “That option was over in Canada because all we had was Polytrack and turf at Woodbine. We got him on turf and he was a rock star on turf so we couldn’t take him off that.”
Gonzalez got the opportunity to get River Seven back on dirt in Sunday’s $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and the son of Johannesburg, indeed, showed himself to be much more than a turf performer with a commanding triumph over a strong field of rivals.
The Ontario-bred gelding, sent to post at 12-1 odds, drew off to score by four lengths and set a track record for 1 1/16 miles in the process. Ridden by Joe Rocco Jr., River Seven was clocked in 1:41.76, eclipsing the old standard of 1:41.81 set by Itsmyluckyday while winning the Holy Bull (G3) last January.
“It’s quite a thrill. This is my first stakes win at Gulfstream. It was an impressive performance – a track record,” Gonzalez said.
Coming off back-to-back turf stakes victories at Woodbine and Churchill Downs, River Seven settled in nicely along the rail in fourth along the backstretch as Sr. Quisqueyano set the pace, chased by defending Harlan’s Holiday winner Csaba. After advancing on the leaders from the rail, Rocco swung his mount to the outside midway on the final turn for a three-wide surge to the lead. Csaba, the 3-1 second choice fought back, but River Seven continued on to score convincingly.
“He was going so good that when I asked him to step on it he really accelerated,” Rocco said. “The only horse I was worried about after that was Bourbon Courage because I thought he might come late.”
Bourbon Courage, the 7-5 favorite ridden by Javier Castellano, raced evenly to finish third, three lengths behind Csaba and jockey Luis Saez. Neck ‘n Neck, the 7-2 third choice ridden by Brian Hernandez, finished fourth.
River Seven was also nominated to next Saturday’s $100,000 El Prado Stakes over Gulfstream’s turf course, but the Harlan’s Holiday fit better in Gonzalez’s plan for him.“I didn’t want to cut him back to a mile in the El Prado next week because it might screw up our schedule because we’re obviously looking down the road, especially after this performance,” said Gonzalez, referring to the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) on Gulfstream’s main track on Feb. 8.