11/25/2008 12:00AM

Dead heat in River City

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer
Karelian (right) bobbed his head at the right time to salvage a dead heat with Demarcation (left) Saturday in the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. Karelian led for most of the stretch drive until Demarcation edged past just before the wire, but then Karelian bobbed his head at the right time to salvage a dead heat Saturday in the 32nd running of the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Both horses capitalized on a fast pace in the River City, a 1 1/8-mile turf race. Karelian, with Bill Troilo substituting for Calvin Borel, pursued from a forward position, taking over for a spent Thorn Song soon after turning for home. Demarcation, with Jesus Castanon up, rallied from farther back, making up considerable ground on the outside.

Karelian, trained by Rusty Arnold, returned $6.80 to win as the 5-1 third choice in a field of 11 older horses. Demarcation, a 33-1 shot for trainer Paul McGee, returned $30.40 after the win pool was split between them. The winning time was 1:50.06 over firm turf.

"That was a great pickup mount," said Troilo, who had won nearly 2,500 races but never a graded stakes. "I honestly thought we got beat, but my horse had his head down at the right time, and it saved us."

"Jesus said he thought he won, but he knew it was real close," said McGee.

Telling, a 20-1 shot, finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winners. Star Plus was another length back in fourth, while Thorn Song, the 122-pound topweight and 5-2 favorite, faded to eighth.

Karelien is owned by his breeders, the Green Lantern Stables, while Demarcation is owned by the Amerman Racing Stables. Both are geldings who had previously won ungraded stakes, so the River City dead heat marks the first graded win for both. Each horse earned $44,090 from the $114,400 total purse.

Borel took off sick from all his Saturday mounts.

Native Ruler gets perfect trip

While the two favorites disappointed, Native Ruler ($10) swept to victory after getting a perfect tracking trip under Jamie Theriot in an earlier overnight handicap, the $55,150 Bet on Sunshine.

Kelly's Landing and previously undefeated Euroears dueled through fractions of 21.81 and 44.83 seconds in the six-furlong race and had no response when Native Ruler made his move. Vicarian rallied to finish second, while Euroears faded to fifth and Kelly's Landing was last of seven.

Native Ruler, owned by Maggi Moss and trained by Chris Richard, won by 4 1/4 lengths and was timed in 1:08.91 over a fast main track.

* Julien Leparoux rode three winners Saturday and continues on pace to break Pat Day's record of 55 wins set at the 1985 Churchill fall meet. Through Saturday, Leparoux had 47 wins, with five of 26 programs remaining.