11/19/2016 5:01PM

Rivers Run Deep much the best in Cardinal Handicap

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Rivers Run Deep reaffirmed his status as the top Ohio-bred sprinter in training with a dominant win in Saturday’s $75,000 Cardinal Handicap at Mahoning Valley Race Course.

It was the 11th win in 12 starts against Ohio-bred sprinters since May 2014 for the 5-year-old Rivers Run Deep, who is based in Kentucky with trainer Chris Hartman. His only loss came in last year’s Cardinal when he was bumped around at the start and finished fourth as the 3-5 favorite. He won the 2014 running of the Cardinal as the 1-5 choice.

Ridden by Albin Jimenez, Rivers Run Deep ($3.80) challenged early pacesetter Candy Bites after an opening quarter-mile in 24.19 seconds. He took a short lead after a half-mile in 47.40, opened up by two lengths turning into the stretch, and crossed the wire 3 1/4 lengths in front, completing six furlongs on a muddy track in 1:12.91. Gone too Soon, cutting back from a third-place finish going 1 1/4 miles in the Best of Ohio Endurance, finished second as the longest shot on the board at 16-1. It was another two lengths back to Candy Bites, who finished third as the 6-5 second choice in a field reduced to five by two scratches, including 3-year-old Ohio-bred star Mo Dont No.

In winning for the 16th time in 31 lifetime starts for owners James Travis and Ywachetta Driver, Rivers Run Deep, a son of Ready’s Image, raised his career bankroll to $905,140.

Leona’s Reward takes Ohio Debutante

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The 3-year-old filly Leona’s Reward earned her first career stakes victory when she pulled away from Deniro’s Saint in deep stretch of the $75,000 Ohio Debutante Handicap for Ohio-accredited fillies and mares.

Sent to the front by jockey Irwin Rosendo, Leona’s Reward ($4.60) was challenged by the 6-year-old Deniro’s Saint, the winner of last year’s Debutante, after the first six furlongs went in 1:15.49. Deniro’s Saint, the 8-5 second choice in a field of seven, briefly took the lead under Luis Gonzalez, but Leona’s Reward came on again and drew clear to win by 4 3/4 lengths. The winning time for 1 1/16 miles over a muddy track was 1:50.62.

Deniro’s Saint, making her first start since mid-June, finished a clear second. Another 3-year-old filly, Ebby, was third, 4 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up.

Trained by Tim Hamm for Blazing Meadow Farm and Michael Friedman, Leona’s Reward, a daughter of Parents’ Reward, is now 3 for 16 lifetime with earnings of $119,530.