11/25/2009 12:00AM

Karelian out to claim River City as his own


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The race could not have set up any better. There was Karelian, cruising in an absolutely ideal stalking position, all by his lonesome with a half-mile of Santa Anita turf ahead of him.

From there . . . not as perfect. A filly named Goldikova was among the horses who beat Karelian to the wire in the Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup Mile, a race that came up so tough that Karelian, the eventual sixth-place finisher, was dismissed at 40-1.

Trainer Rusty Arnold isn't asking for the same price, but he would like the same pretty trip when Karelian runs back Friday in the Grade 3, $150,000 River City Handicap, the secondary feature on the Clark Handicap card at Churchill Downs.

"It was a great trip," said Arnold. "Either we didn't have enough horse, or maybe that was just his race. I mean, he only got beat 3 3/4 lengths by Goldikova."

Karelian dead-heated for win last year with Demarcation in the River City, then went to the sidelines for nearly 11 months before returning with a sensational effort in a narrow defeat in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 10 at Keeneland. Then came the creditable Breeders' Cup try, so the River City is the third start of his form cycle.

"There were some circumstances that pushed us here," said Arnold, alluding primarily to timing and a lack of opportunities elsewhere until January. "He's had his share of physical problems, so while he's doing as good as he is, I'd rather run him than breeze him four times."

Karelian is the 122-pound highweight in the River City, a 1 1/8-mile turf race that goes as the ninth of 12 Friday races. In all, 10 older horses were entered, with the Canadian standout Rahy's Attorney pegged next at 121 pounds, followed by the New York-bred turf star Banrock at 119.

Rahy's Attorney has knocked out more than $1.5 million and enters off a sharp score over his home Woodbine course, while Banrock risks a three-race winning streak while venturing outside of statebred restrictions.

Fringe possibilities in this 32nd running of the River City include a second Arnold starter, Wicked Style, along with Pleasant Strike, Brave Tin Soldier, and Rahystrada.