07/12/2006 12:00AM

River Downs track report


When Spring Tribute captured a 1 1/4-mile starter allowance last Sunday by 11 lengths, the biggest story wasn't so much that none of his rivals was a threat, but that his winning time of 2:08 was nowhere close to a track record that is about to begin its ninth decade in existence.

July 24 will mark the 80th anniversary of Crusader's win in the 1926 Cincinnati Derby at River Downs, a race in which he covered 1 1/4 miles in 2:02, a record that has remarkably stood the test of time. Crusader, the leading 3-year-old of that year, also captured the Suburban, Belmont, Dwyer, and Jockey Club Gold Cup that season.

While few Thoroughbreds of Crusader's stature have competed at River Downs in the intervening years, much less at 1 1/4 miles, the record's longevity is especially noteworthy given the widespread technological advances that have made racetracks in general much faster than they were when Crusader raced.

Amazingly enough, the current 1 1/8-mile track record of 1:49 is even older, having been set during the track's inaugural season in 1925.

While the two distances are rarely used during the course of any racing season, major statebred stakes have been contested annually at one or both distances over the past several decades, and yet the records have stood. The Queen City Oaks, which will be renewed on July 22, is run at nine furlongs, while the 1 1/4-mile Governor's Buckeye Cup, which until a few years ago called River Downs home, has for years been the premier race for older Ohio-breds.

Indeed, the two records can rightly be considered the longest-standing track marks in the country for distances still in use. According to the 2006 American Racing Manual, only Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Fair Grounds have older track records, but in all three instances they are for archaic distances rarely used since the records were set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

* With only a few racetracks running on Thursday, July 6, there was very little competition in the simulcast market for River Downs, which enjoyed a record day when $3,953,788 was wagered on its 11-race card. The all-sources handle record shattered the previous mark of $2,532,492, which was set on May 31.

In both instances, River Downs took advantage of running live while most tracks around the country were dark following federal holidays.

* Indy Energy's attempt to become the first Thoroughbred in North America to win nine races this year fell short in a starter allowance last Friday. Indy Energy remains in a three-way tie for the most wins this year, as does another River Downs-based runner, Usher In.