The $175,000 River City Handicap (G3) will be run at Churchill Downs Saturday and features older horses on the turf at 1 1/8 miles. I am not sure how the turf course will play after the recent frigid conditions, with Wednesday’s program canceled and Thursday’s turf races moved to the main track, but at least there is no moisture in the forecast and temperatures predicted to be in the mid-40s.

There is a pronounced lack of early pace in the 10-horse River City field.

River City Handicap Contender Notes

#1 CULLUM ROAD ran his best race two starts back when rallying to just miss going a two-turn mile in fast time and earned his highest BRIS speed rating on turf. He came back with an even effort in an allowance race at Keeneland where he was stuck behind a slow pace. Tyler Gaffalione could work out a good trip from post 1 if Cullum Road breaks well and doesn’t get caught in traffic.     

#2 EMMAUS added Lasix three starts back and ran well in the Woodbine Mile (G1), getting stuck in traffic in the long stretch. He bounced back with an allowance win at Keeneland when he stalked a slow pace and needs to be ridden similarly by Channing Hill.  

#3 BLUE SKY KOWBOY is a one-dimensional closer who flew home for third going two turns on the synthetic track at Arlington Park and came back at Hawthorne to get up by a nose against Illinois-breds last out. He gets a major class test but picks up Sophie Doyle, who rode well aboard the gelding previously.   

#4 MR. MISUNDERSTOOD is a horse for the course (four for five at Churchill) and won this race last year when he stalked a slow pace over a yielding turf course. He was badly outrun two starts back at Kentucky Downs and shipped to Remington Park to record a fast second at this distance while racing wide.  

#5 MY BARILEY has run well in his last three starts on the turf at Indiana Downs against optional claiming company and moves way up in class for Tony Granitz, who wins 18% with his shippers and shows a flat-bet profit from 234 starts.

#6 SPACE MOUNTAIN is a three-time winner over the course who won a Remington Park stakes two starts back. He exits an even effort going 1 ½ miles at Keeneland, and Mike Maker does great with older turf runners. Space Mountain could be a major stretch factor in here.

#7 BEMMA’S BOY is an inconsistent gelding who beat claimers at Saratoga by almost seven lengths. He was soundly beaten over this distance at Churchill two back but bounced back with a good win at Keeneland going 1 ½ miles. Bemma’s Boy now drops back to 1 1/8 miles for Mike Maker, who wins at a 18% clip in the next start after a win.   

#8 GET WESTERN could be loose on an easy lead against this paceless group. After posting a pair of gate-to-wire wins, the four-year-old weakened late after setting a demanding pace at Keeneland last time. He has won over this course twice before and appears to be training well in preparation.

#9 ADMISSION OFFICE ran extremely well two starts in a row when moved up in class then was part of a blanket finish in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) after being too far behind early. Still, he was only beaten three lengths and gets Jose Ortiz, who will look to race closer in the opening stages before launching a rally.

#10 LASCAUX looks like he is gradually becoming a decent turf horse but is not quite ready for this jump in class. He was a good third against allowance foes last out and will have to circle the field to have any chance in here.

River City Handicap Picks

  • Admission Office
  • Mr. Misunderstood
  • Get Western
  • Emmaus

River City Handicap Wagers

  • $40 Win: 9
  • $10 Exacta Key Box: 9 with 2,4,8 ($60)