11/24/2016 6:16PM

Thatcher Street wins River City Handicap to cap big day for Wilkes

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Thatcher Street, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., wins the River City Handicap by half a length Thursday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Two-thirds of the way through the Thanksgiving Day card at Churchill Downs, trainer Ian Wilkes already had plenty of reasons to be thankful, having recorded the 500th win of his career with War Stroll in race 4 and then adding another win when Bird Song took an allowance in the ninth with a mile in a swift 1:34.06.

Then his holiday got even better when Thatcher Street won the Grade 3, $100,000 River City Handicap by a half-length over Pleuven.

“He’s so consistent – we’re so proud of him, “ said Wilkes. “A horse like this, he gives it every time.”

Well positioned behind a slow pace in third for the first half of the race as Roman Approval set splits of 24.15 seconds and 49.12 in the 1 1/8-mile grass race, Thatcher Street advanced three wide on the second turn to take command shortly after six furlongs in 1:14.03. And from there, it was a matter of determination, with him outfinishing Pleuven, who had surged from midpack to challenge in midstretch.

It was the fourth win from seven starts over the Churchill turf for Thatcher Street. “He gets over this course better than any other, it seems,” said winning rider Brian Hernandez Jr.

A 5-year-old gelded son of Street Sense owned by Randall Block and partners, Thatcher Street ($16.40), the runner-up in the 2015 River City,  raced 1 1/8 miles on a “good” course  in 1:51.45. The win marked his first graded stakes victory.

The tepid pace seemed to compromise the performances of two of the late-running favorites – The Pizza Man and Taghleeb – who couldn’t threaten the top pair while finishing ahead of the rest. The Pizza Man rallied for third, a head in front of Taghleeb.

Allied Air Raid, Granny’s Kitten, and Are You Kidding Me were scratched. The latter is expected to run in Friday’s Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill.