06/21/2013 11:59AM

Woodbine: Riding the River out for repeat in King Edward Stakes

Michael Burns
Bone bruising forced Riding the River to the sidelines after the Sept. 16 Woodbine Mile.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Riding the River, Canada’s reigning champion male turf runner, will attempt to win the $200,000 King Edward Stakes for the second year in a row at Woodbine on Sunday.

Riding the River won a pair of Grade 2 stakes last year, the King Edward and Nijinsky. After running second in the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes in August, he capped his abbreviated campaign with a closing fourth in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

Bone bruising forced Riding the River to the sidelines after the Sept. 16 Woodbine Mile, and he was a charging second under Todd Kabel following an eight-month break in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup Stakes on May 26. Trainer Dave Cotey said he was surprised with how well the determined gelding ran.

“He was never right last year and the year before,” Cotey said. “He was very uncomfortable. He’s been absolutely sound this year, but I still didn’t know that I did enough with him to run a race like that. I was concerned that he wasn’t quite fit enough, and Todd said he got a little tired at the sixteenth pole, but I was so pleased with the way he ran.”

Cotey was encouraged by Riding the River’s five-furlong work in a bullet 59.40 seconds last Sunday under Kabel.

“That was the best he’s ever worked,” Cotey said. “He spotted another horse six or seven lengths, and just blew by him. Todd was really, really pleased. I think he’s coming into the race pretty well.”

The once-beaten Valentino Beauty should be prominent in the one-mile turf event.

Valentino Beauty won his first two outings over middle distances on the grass here in September. After a seven-month absence, on April 20 he rallied gamely from a stalking position to land a second-level allowance going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland.

Valentino Beauty’s win streak ended when he cut back to seven furlongs in the Connaught Cup and wound up fourth, two lengths back of victorious Something Extra.

“I thought he ran a pretty good race,” said trainer Barb Minshall. “The distance was a little short for him. He hadn’t sprinted before and the winner is a tough horse.”

Minshall said Valentino Beauty has trained well since the Connaught Cup, including a half-mile breeze in 48 seconds on June 15.

“He breezed really nice the other day,” Minshall said. “You don’t have to do a lot with this horse – just keep him happy.”

Hotep rallied belatedly from far back for fifth in the Connaught Cup. He, too, will appreciate the move out to what is the distance of his last victory, which came in an optional claimer here in June of 2012.

Prospective and Any Given Royal were supplemented for $4,000 apiece.