Hozier earned the biggest win of his career at Churchill Downs on Sunday with a wire-to-wire score in the $292,500 River City S.
Originally scheduled for the turf, the River City was switched to the dirt when an unseasonable rain and snow mix entered the Louisville area over the weekend, making the grass unusable. Although automatically downgraded from a Grade 3 and with a reduced field of seven, the lineup included graded stakes winners In Love and Pixelate.
But the switch in surfaces clearly favored Hozier, who led throughout to win by 3 1/2 lengths under Julien Leparoux. The four-year-old covered nine furlongs over a fast track in 1:51.67 and returned $11.90 for owner Storyteller Racing and trainer Rodolphe Brisset.
“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. “He drug me around there and finished up well in the stretch.”
Starting Over, a 14-1 chance, finished a clear second by three lengths over In Love. Farther up the track were Pixelate, who finished fifth, and Militarist, who crossed the wire in sixth as the favorite at approximate odds of 13-10.
Prior to be acquired by his present connections for $200,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Horses of Racing Age sale, Hozier had finished second in last year’s Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn and Sir Barton S. at Pimlico for trainer Bob Baffert.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Hozier is by Pioneerof the Nile and out of the Grade 2-winning Merry Meadow, by Henny Hughes.
One race earlier, Bango won for the ninth time in 16 lifetimes attempts under the Twin Spires when taking the $200,750 Bet On Sunshine S. by three parts of a length over Sibelius.
Owned by Tamaroak Partners and trained by Greg Foley, Bango paid $5.06 as the favorite after covering six furlongs in 1:10 under Tyler Gaffalione.
The Bet On Sunshine was the sixth career stakes win for the five-year-old son of Congrats, whose prior stakes wins at Churchill include the last two editions of the Aristides S.
Coppelia kicked off the Sunday stakes action with a 2 3/4-length score in the $300,000 Dream Supreme S. for fillies and mares. Ridden by Martin Garcia, Coppelia earned her first stakes win from 2-1 favorite Joyful Cadence and retiring multiple Grade 3 winner Sconsin in a time of 1:09.90 for six furlongs.
Owned by Rigney Racing and trained by Phil Bauer, Coppelia preceded this victory with a four-length allowance score at Keeneland on Oct. 26. A four-year-old by Not This Time, she’s now won four of 14 starts lifetime.