How to Bet the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs

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TwinSpires Staff

November 15th, 2018


A field of eight will contest Saturday’s River City Handicap (G3) for three-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles on the turf at Churchill Downs. There are no three-year-olds entered and the spread of assigned weights range from 121 pounds down to 115. Mike Maker and Brad Cox each have entered a pair of horses, and Maker won last year’s running with Shining Copper gate to wire.

Louisville native Cox has had a huge year and saddles 121-pound highweight #3 MR. MISUNDERSTOOD. The horse for the course is three-for-three locally including the June’s Wise Dan (G2) in fast time and will be taking a class drop after finishing sixth in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland. Last year at three, the son of Archarcharch won the Commonwealth Turf G3) on a course listed as “good” and his other wins here came over a course listed as “Firm.” Mr. Misunderstood is probably looking at a course with some give to it (less than firm) and is versatile enough to handle any ground. Florent Geroux rides back for Cox, who shows an amazing flat-bet profit from his last 986 turf starters.

Cox also sends out #5 BIG CHANGES, a six-year-old gelded son of Midshipman who has all five starts this year on turf. He did it over five different turf courses and has enough gate speed to make the lead in the run to the first turn. Geroux rides the other Cox trainee and Julien Leparoux picks up the mount here. I’m not sure if Big Changes can handle the move up in class but I love his ability to take his show on the road even though he trains here for most of the year.

The only other starter with gate speed is #2 POSTULATION. Since switching to the Michael Matz stable, he’s made two starts at 1 ½ miles on soft and yielding turf. Some turf marathons yield phony speed ratings since they are usually the only turf race run at that distance that day and I won’t put too much stock in the 103 BRIS Speed rating he earned recently. I do like that Postulation has shown some speed and comes in here off a bullet five-furlong breeze on the Tapeta at Fair Hill training Center. Brian Hernandez Jr. picks up the mount from an inside post and we’ll see if he takes advantage of it.

#1 MASTER MERION rallied from far back to get up for third behind Big Changes after being bumped around at the start last time. Wesley Ward has shipped him all over America and to Royal Ascot three starts back so Master Merion might be cycling back to a big effort. As good as Albin Jimenez has been riding, he is 0-for-11 for Ward over the past two months. If you assume the trip to Royal Ascot was a mistake, a strong case can be made for the gelding.

In his first start after Royal Ascot, Master Merion chased the pace on the quirky Kentucky Downs turf course and was beaten 4 ½ lengths by Next Shares, who came back to capture the Shadwell Turf Mile. Master Merion returned at Keeneland in a high-class allowance race but was shuffled back to 10th after being bumped at the start. He rallied up the inside between horses to get third and with a pair of starts under his belt, the four-year-old appears poised to run big here from post 1 if he can break okay.


My key will be Master Merion. I know many of these are turning back in distance and this one is stretching out, but he has shown an ability to settle this year and between the ground saved and getting in with 117 pounds, it should be enough to get him up in time behind a sluggish pace. Master Merion did win a $250,000 stakes race on yielding turf at Kentucky Downs last year so the ground should not be an issue.




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