A star on the rise, Riker, in command throughout, will look to make his next start in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after wiring the $150,000 Grade 3 Grey Stakes , at Woodbine.
Trained by Nick Gonzalez for owner Tucci Stables, the dark bay son of Include-Desviacion, remained undefeated through four starts with an impressive performance around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile 'Poly' stake for juveniles.
The colt’s next start could come in the Grade 1 $2-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile, slated forat Keeneland Racecourse, in Kentucky.
"That will be our plan now. We'll see how he comes out of the race, but we're dreaming the dream," said Gonzalez.
Sent to post as the even-money favourite, Riker, with Jesse Campbell up, opened up a four-length lead in the opening quarter-mile and took the compact five-horse field through splits of :24.18, :48.92 and 1:14.29.
Kasseopia, an impressive maiden winner at Kempton in England, broke outward but was keen to stalk Riker's early foot, chasing the leader through the final turn and stayed on determinedly to the wire, as Riker, under light handling, kept on for a 1 1/2-length score. Kasseopia settled for place, 1 1/2-lengths in front of Tizzarunner. Riker covered 1 1/16-miles in 1:44.31, more than a second faster than the 1:45.62 posted by filly Gamble's Ghost earlier on the card in the Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes.
Riker has yet to put a foot wrong over the Woodbine 'Poly' winning his five furlong debut by a 1/2-length over Conquest Nitro en route to another 1/2-length score in the six furlong Colin Stakes over well-regarded The Zip Zip Man. Last time out, Riker stretched out to seven furlongs with a prominent 2 1/2-length score over Tizzarunner.
Campbell, aboard for all four scores, continues to be impressed by the improving dark bay.
"I wanted to be in front and it worked out that way. He was very relaxed going into the first turn and at about seven-eighths he grabbed me pretty good. It wasn't rank, he just surprised me a bit...he was ready to run today," said Campbell.
The veteran conditioner was pleased with Riker's effort travelling two-turns for the first time.
"I was really happy. Jesse and I weren't surprised. He's always galloped out well after his races. He worked out in :59 and change (:59.80 on September 24) and he galloped out very strong after that," said Gonzalez. "He's always showed lots of stamina in the morning. We give him lots of two-mile gallops and he takes it like it's nothing. He's growing from a boy to a man."
Riker, bred in Kentucky by Turner Breeders, banked $90,000 in victory while remaining undefeated through four starts.
He paid $4 and $2.30, combining with Kasseopia ($3.50) for a $13.80 (4-6) exactor. A 4-6-1 triactor (Tizzarunner) was worth $18.90. Ultraflame was scratched.
Gamble's Ghost makes the grade in Mazarine
Gamble's Ghost swooped the field in the final furlong with an impressive turn of foot to captureco-featured $179,100 Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by Josie Carroll, the Ivan Dalos homebred daughter of Ghostzapper arrived at the 1 1/16-mile 'Poly' route for juvenile fillies from a closing second-place finish to Catch a Glimpse in the grassy Grade 2 Natalma Stakes on September 12.
Sent to post as the prohibitive 2-5 mutuel favourite under regular pilot Luis Contreras, Gamble’s Ghost settled into fifth position in the early running as Audacious Bear took the field of six through splits of :24.30 and :49.82. Swoop and Strike, with Eurico Rosa da Silva up, surged into contention late in the turn to assume command as Gamble's Ghost struggled to find racing room.
However, a brave Gamble's Ghost surged between rivals, and despite Contreras losing his whip mid-stretch, went on to win by three-quarters of a length. Swoop and Strike held place by 3/4-lengths over a rallying Garavogue Colleen. Gamble's Ghost covered 1 1/16-miles in 1:45.62.
A last-to-first winner in her visually appealing 8 1/2-length debut score in a seven furlong maiden allowance over the Woodbine main on, Gamble's Ghost again impressed with a strong closing kick to earn her first added-money score.
"The last time (in the Natalma) she did not break well and I think it was belated when she got running and wasn't able to catch a free-running leader (Catch a Glimpse)," said Carroll. "We had some anxious moments today. Luis might have been pretty confident, but when I saw her trapped in there I was pretty concerned. She is a very brave filly and she went through and pricked her ears and had fun."
The victory marked the fourth stakes win of the meet for Dalos who captured the Simcoe and Bull Page with talented juvenile colt Amis Gizmo and the Etobicoke with Elusive Collection. The Mazarine score for Gamble's Ghost, out of 1996 La Prevoyante champ Gambling Girl, touched Dalos.
"This one is special because her dam passed away this year," said Dalos. "I have some special memories of her."
Gamble's Ghost, bred in Ontario by her owner, banked $108,000 in victory while improving her record to two wins from three starts.
She paid $2.90 and $2.10, combining with Swoop and Strike ($3) for a $6.20 (4-2) exactor. A 4-2-6 triactor (Garavogue Colleen) was worth $16.40. No show wagering was offered.
Source: Woodbine Communications Office