June 6, 2023

Mr. Misunderstood wins River City, Village King takes off-the-turf Red Smith in photo

Mr Misunderstood was on top to end stablemate's Big Changes' five-race win streak (Coady Photography)

Mr. Misunderstood had one primary target, stablemate Big Changes, in Saturday’s $100,000 River City H. (G3) at Churchill Downs. Though Big Changes gave it his best shot attempting to steal the nine-furlong grass test with pedestrian splits of :25.88, :52.52, and 1:18.74 on the yielding ground, Mr. Misunderstood’s class shined as the 7-10 favorite got up by a measured half-length under Florent Geroux.

“He handled everything well on the course,” Geroux said. “We had a really good position early tracking Julien (Leparoux on Big Changes) and when I tipped him out to make his run he responded really well.”

Owned by Flurry Racing Stables and trained by Brad Cox, Mr. Misunderstood paid $3.40 after completing the course in 1:55.94. Big Changes, whose five-race win streak was snapped, was 4 1/2 lengths clear of Team Colors. Sir Dudley Digges and Flatlined rounded out the order of finish.

Mr. Misunderstood, a four-year-old gelded son of Archarcharch, is now four-for-four over the Matt Winn Turf Course having previously taken the 2017 Jefferson Cup and Commonwealth Turf (G3), as well as the Wise Dan (G2) in June. He’s won four other stakes, and now has career earnings of $772,354.

“(Mr. Misunderstood) will probably get a little bit of a break before we bring him back at Fair Grounds and if he keeps improving we’ll keep the Breeders’ Cup on our target for next year,” Cox said.

Saturday’s $202,500 Red Smith at Aqueduct received an automatic downgrade from a Grade 3 after it was switched from a soggy turf to a fast main track and reduced in distance from 1 3/8 miles to 1 1/8 miles. The excitement was not downgraded, though, as Argentinean import Village King just lasted over Soglio by a nose. Control Group was third and 2-1 favorite Exulting ran fourth.

The 9-2 fourth choice in a field of six, Village King paid $11.80. Owned by Angels of Catalina and trained by Todd Pletcher, Village King covered the distance in 1:52.95 under Javier Castellano.

A four-year-old son of Campanologist, Village King went three-for-five in Argentina, including a victory in the 2017 Gran Premio Jockey Club (G1), or Argentinean Derby. He also placed in the country’s signature event, the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini (G1).

“This horse had trained pretty well on the dirt. He had also run well in South America on the dirt, so we felt it was worth a try,” Pletcher said. “He kept fighting and cut the corner and we ended up on the right end of a head bob. It kind of gives us a ton of options going forward from here. He seems versatile and we’ll see what’s next.”

Since joining the Pletcher barn, Village King had run fourth and third in turf allowances at Churchill and Belmont.