11/17/2011 3:30PM

Churchill Downs: Tajaaweed, Blues Street look strong in River City

Tom Keyser
Blues Street should get a good setup in Saturday's Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – If pace really makes the race, the two highweights in the River City Handicap should be just fine.

Speed seems to abound in the Grade 3, $100,000 River City, which drew a field of eight older horses and will be run at 1 1/8 miles Saturday on the Churchill Downs turf. On paper, anyway, that should set things up for stretch-runners Tajaaweed, the 119-pound topweight, or Blues Street, 116.

Starting from the rail post with Plutonium, a recent wire-to-wire winner of a Churchill main track race going a one-turn mile, other River City starters with early foot include Cherokee Lord, Bergerac, and Zimmer, while longshot Allie’s Event exits a series of sprint races.

“I agree there’s a lot of speed in the race,” said Jimmy Baker, trainer of Bergerac. “But my horse runs his best from right off the pace, so hopefully he can settle. He hasn’t run a bad race since Saratoga, but my main concern is whether we can get the mile and an eighth.”

Blues Street, easily the leading earner in the field with more than $580,000 from 29 career starts, has a new trainer in Eddie Kenneally, who assumed the care of the 7-year-old gelding for the Anstu Stables following the Saratoga meet. Blues Street ran his first 28 races for Todd Pletcher, after which Kenneally sent him out for a sharp runner-up finish in a one-mile turf allowance on opening day of the Keeneland fall meet.

“I thought he closed very well at Keeneland, and he’s trained well since,” Kenneally said. “We’ve had this race picked out for a while, and hopefully things will go in our favor.”

Like Blues Street, the final quarter-mile tends to be the domain of Tajaaweed, winner of the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap this summer for Shadwell Stable and trainer Dan Peitz. Tajaaweed was sixth behind Gio Ponti in the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland in his last start.

“Maybe we were a little overmatched at Keeneland,” Peitz said. “Obviously, this is a different kind of field we’re in against Saturday. If we’re the highweight, we must’ve found a pretty good spot.”

Named for one of the informal labels that apply to the city of Louisville, the River City goes as the ninth of 10 races on a Saturday card that also includes two allowances (races 4 and 7), both also scheduled for turf. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.

This is the 34th running of the River City, which was run during Breeders’ Cup week last year when Battle of Hastings prevailed under jockey Joel Rosario. Through the years, other notable winners include Taylor’s Special (1986), Same Old Wish (1996-97), Dr. Kashnikov (2001-02), and Thorn Song (2007).

The River City will be the last stakes here before the closing-weekend flurry of the Falls City, Clark, Golden Rod, and Kentucky Jockey Club. Closing day is Nov. 27.

◗ With Delta Downs offering its rich Jackpot card Saturday, among the jockeys traveling from Churchill to Vinton, La., are Julien Leparoux, Brian Hernandez Jr., Shaun Bridgmohan, Miguel Mena, and Jamie Theriot.