Updated on 09/17/2011 10:48PM

America Alive best in River City Handicap

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A last-gasp surge by America Alive was just enough to overcome a gutsy effort by defending champion G P Fleet when the proverbial cavalry charge thundered to the wire Sunday in the 28th running of the $167,700 at Churchill Downs.

With just a quarter-mile to go in the 1 1/8-mile River City, the entire field of eight turf veterans was separated by less than three lengths. G P Fleet, who set a moderate pace under Jesus Castanon, was hanging grimly to the lead while fending off challenge after challenge.

Finally, just when it appeared G P Fleet had turned back every bid, a furious rally by America Alive, with Robby Albarado aboard, was just enough to win by a nose. "He was just eating them up down the stretch," said Albarado.

Shaniko finished third, another neck back, while Honor In War, who had little room to maneuver in the drive, was another half-length back in fourth.

America Alive, owned by the Mill House of former U.S. Treasury Secretary James Brady, returned $5 as favorite. The winning time was 1:50.78 over a firm course.

With the Grade 3 River City marking his eighth win from 20 career starts, America Alive, a 4-year-old American Chance colt trained by Neil Howard, now has earned $793,767. His greatest victory remains the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve earlier this year at Churchill.

"His best races are here," said Albarado.

Howard said America Alive would be rested, then pointed for a return to the Woodford next May.

Earlier Sunday, Lewis Michael ($8.80) made a powerful run through the stretch under Shaun Bridgmohan to overtake Smart Sherif for a 1 1/4-length triumph in the $71,500 Grand Canyon Stakes for 2-year-olds on the turf.

Lewis Michael, a Rahy colt owned by Frank Calabrese and trained by Wayne Catalano, finished a close second in a Keeneland allowance in his previous start. Wise River, the 11-10 favorite, finished third, another 2 1/4 lengths back in a field of seven. Lewis Michael finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.71.

The Grand Canyon gave Bridgmohan his first of four winners on the 10-race Sunday card. He also swept the fifth through seventh races with Wild Meggie Meg ($12.40), Dyna Slam ($48.20), and Brickell ($21.80).