11/23/2013 5:10PM

Churchill Downs: Potomac River connects for $93.60 bomb in River City

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Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs
Juan Vargas brings home Potomac River, the longest shot on the board, in the Grade 3 River City.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Potomac River stunned what remained of a chilled crowd Saturday at Churchill Downs with a 45-1 upset in the 36th running of the Grade 3, $116,300 River City Handicap.

With unheralded jockey Juan Vargas aboard for owner Maribel Ruelas, Potomac River surged to the lead after turning for home and edged away from Set the Sail to prevail by two lengths, giving the 4-year-old colt his first stakes win and fifth overall from 18 career starts.

The victory was easily the biggest for Potomac River, as well as for trainer Sergio Baez, both of whom are based at Turfway Park.

“This makes me very happy,” said Baez, who has a 10-horse stable at Turfway in northern Kentucky.

For Vargas, it was the second graded stakes win since he came to the United States from his native Peru in 2008, following a 21-1 upset in February aboard Funnys Approval in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park.

Potomac River, a Kentucky-bred by English Channel, returned $93.60 as the longest shot in the field after finishing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:51.20 over a turf course rated good.

In unseasonably cold weather, Skyring and Ol Army set the early pace, with Set the Sail in closest pursuit. Late in the far turn, Set the Sail poked his head in front but then was collared from the outside by Potomac River, who gradually pulled away. Grand Arch was third, with Villandry fourth. Coalport, the lukewarm 5-2 favorite in a field of 10, was no threat in finishing seventh.

Five horses were early scratches from an original cast of 15.

The $2 exacta (13-3) paid $1,141; the $1 trifecta (13-3-12) returned $4,816.20; and the 10-cent superfecta (13-3-12-1) was worth $1,752.39.