Hozier dominates in the River City (Coady Photography)
Churchill Downs Press Release
LOUISVILLE, Ky.— Hozier, owned by Ted Nixon’s Storyteller Racing, went straight to the front and never looked back while winning Sunday’s $292,500 River City at Churchill Downs by 3 ½ lengths over Starting Over.
The River City, which was not staged in 2020-21, returned to the Churchill Downs stakes schedule this year but was switched from turf to dirt because of wet conditions on the grass course following Saturday morning snow showers.
Hozier, who had back class on the dirt including a second-place finish in last year’s Rebel (Grade II), broke well from the rail and dictated the terms in the field of seven horses through comfortable fractions of :24.05, :48.05 and 1:13.59 as Starting Over tracked one length back in second. Starting Over drew even with Hozier off the final turn but jockey Julien Leparoux hadn’t asked Hozier for his best run and the 4-year-old gelding kicked clear down the lane for the easy win in 1:51.67 for 1 1/8 miles.
Hozier, trained by Rodolphe Brisset, returned mutuels of $11.90, $7.22 and $4.08 as the 9-2 third betting choice. Starting Over, at 14-1 under Adam Beschizza, paid $10.86 and $4.36. It was another 2 ½ lengths back in third to In Love (BRZ) under Gerardo Corrales, who paid $3.42 to show.
English Tavern, Pixelate, 6-5 favorite Militarist and Rupp N Ready completed the order of finish. Beatbox, Cellist, Max K.O., Street Ready, Accredit, Set Piece (GB) and Field Pass were scratched.
The first stakes victory for Hozier was worth $181,900 and increased his earnings to $585,910. He boasts a record of 4-4-1 in 18 starts.
“He has some good speed and with all of the early scratches he was able to take advantage of that and get the lead early,” Leparoux said. “Rodolphe told me he can be a tricky horse to ride sometimes but he ran great today. He drug me around there and finished up well in the stretch.”
Hozier, a son of Pioneerof the Nile out of the Henny Hughes mare Merry Meadow, was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm.
“He ran a great race today and was able to settle well on the front end,” Brisset said. “It was a really big race for him and now we’ll take him back home, see how he comes out of it and see what options we have next either dirt or turf.”