Riding the River, under a masterful ride by Todd Kabel, was steered through a traffic jam at the quarter-pole before powering home a neck winner in Sunday’s Grade 2 $322,200 Nijinsky Stakes, at Woodbine.
The five-year-old bay gelding, blocked behind the trio of Kara’s Orientation, Pender Harbour and Imagining in the stretch run, was neatly nipped to the rail en route to a second graded score on the trot.
Riding the River, who arrived in the Nijinsky off a win in the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes, saved all the ground in the nine-furlong turf tilt as Kara’s Orientation led the field through a half in :48.25.
Imagining, the post-time favourite, advanced through the turn with Pender Harbour hot on his heels collaring Kara’s Orientation near the top of the lane.
As the front-running trio duelled for the lead, Kabel searched earnestly to find racing room for Riding the River, was blocked at the quarter pole and again when trying to split Imagining and Pender Harbour, eventually surging inside of the tiring Imagining to take command of the lead from Pender Harbour and a closing Hollinger.
Kabel kept to task on Riding the River and held off a strong late rally from Hotep to prevail by a neck, in 1:48.05. Pender Harbour stayed on for show.
Trainer David Cotey was thrilled with the effort of both horse and rider over a course showered with rain and hail as the field loaded into the gate.
“It was a trip of hell,” said Cotey. “I warned Todd, ‘At some point in time, they’re going to shut off and you’re going to see a six-inch hole. Point him and hold on,’ and that’s almost exactly what happened. He just forced his way through it, he’s such a game little guy.”
Cotey is hopeful that Kabel and Riding the River can continue their success through Woodbine’s lucrative Fall turf meet.
“He (Kabel) did a magnificent job, just like they did in the other race,” offered Cotey. “They’re getting to know each other a bit.”
Riding the River improved his record to eight wins, a second and two thirds from 18 career starts. He earned $180,000, boosting his bankroll just shy of $600,000.
He returned $20.90, $7.50 and $4, pairing with Hotep ($9.70, $5) for a $132.20 (4-2) exactor. A 4-2-3 (Pender Harbour, $3 to show) triactor was worth $521.60.