River Seven Successfully Defends Labeeb Title

River Seven rallied off the sharp pace of Excaper and Best Bard to capture Sunday’s $113,200 Labeeb Stakes, giving Jesse Campbell a sweep

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Jesse Campbell guides River Seven to victory in the $100,000 Labeeb Stakes at Woodbine. Photo by Michael Burns Photography

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River Seven rallied off the sharp pace of Excaper and Best Bard to capture Sunday’s $113,200 Labeeb Stakes, giving Jesse Campbell a sweep of the Sunday stakes at Woodbine.

Last year, the Tucci Stables charge, trained by Nick Gonzalez, romped the one-mile event by 10 lengths over a ‘yielding’ turf course with a front-running effort.

On this day, the four-year-old Johannesburg gelding settled along the rail in fourth position as Excaper, a week removed from a fourth-place run in the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes, set splits of :22.86 and :45.04 under constant pressure from Best Bard.

Excaper maintained a narrow lead through the turn as Campbell angled River Seven off the rail and set the bay down for a stirring stretch run earning a 1 1/4-length win over a game and determined Excaper. Cummings Road rallied for show money as River Seven covered the mile in 1:34.58 over a ‘firm’ E.P. Taylor Turf Course.

“I didn’t think anybody would go after the six horse (Excaper), but I was very glad that they did,” said Campbell. “I didn’t think we’d be going that quick and I was a little concerned I was letting him do too much down the backside, but I had to hold my position where I was. He really showed his class.”

Gonzalez was pleased to see the hard-trying gelding, an excellent fourth last time out in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile, notch his first win of the season.

“We gave him six weeks to point to this race and we were hoping for a not-so-firm turf course because he likes a little give to the ground,” said Gonzalez. “He’s ran in six graded races this year from the Grade 1 Donn to the (Grade 1) Ricoh Woodbine Mile last time and it was a little class relief for him today.”

River Seven, bred in Ontario by William D. Graham, banked $72,000 in victory while improving his career record to 5-5-2 from 20 starts.

He returned $5.60, $2.80 and $2.40, pairing with Excaper ($2.60, $2.40) for a $10.60 (1-6) exactor. A 1-6-2 (Cummings Road, $3.30 to show) triactor was worth $50.50, while a $1 Superfecta [1-6-2-5 (Eminent Force)] came back $144.20.

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