01/01/2012 12:03PM

Turfway Park: River Bear pulls away in Holiday Cheer

Patrick Lang Photogrpahy
River Bear wins the $50,000 Holiday Cheer at Turfway Park by five lengths.

River Bear rallied off a hot pace to break open what had been a competitive race when moving on to a five-length triumph Saturday night in the 24th running of the $50,000 Holiday Cheer at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

With Tim Thornton in from Chicago to ride, River Bear lagged back in the six-furlong Polytrack race before making an eye-catching run. He went clear approaching the eighth pole and steadily widened, giving him his fifth stakes victory, and 13th overall, from 43 career starts for earnings of $588,915. He returned $11.80 as fourth choice in a field of 11 after finishing in 1:09.78.

“He’s one of my favorite horses,” Thornton said.

Live From Appollo, an 18-1 shot, was best in a four-horse photo for second, with Conchacer third, Golden Country fourth, and Matthewsburg fifth. The 2-1 favorite, Hollywood Hit, was never a factor when finishing 10th after stumbling at the break.

River Bear, an Illinois-bred by Unreal Zeal, is owned by Dana Waier Thoroughbreds and is trained by Rusty Hellman. The gelding turned 7 on Sunday.

The Holiday Cheer anchored the final program of the holiday meet, which began Dec. 1. Victor Lebron was the leading jockey by riding 31 winners, marking his third Turfway riding title, while Mike Maker sent out nine winners for his ninth Turfway training title.

Racing resumes Sunday afternoon at Turfway with the first program of the winter-spring meet, which runs through April 1. Three dark days follow the Sunday card, with four-day race weeks resuming Thursday.