Unbeaten in four turf starts, Rydilluc is the likely favorite against eight rivals in Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. The front-running colt will attempt to carry his speed 1 ¼ miles for the first time.
Trained by Gary Contessa, Rydilluc exits a nice win in the inaugural running of the $500,000 Penn Mile and the son of Medaglia d'Oro has won up to distances of 1 1/8 miles previously, posting a 3 ½-length tally in the Palm Beach at Gulfstream three starts ago. His only recent setback came on Polytrack, a fourth-place effort in the Blue Grass at Keeneland. The bay colt registered a field-best 101 BRIS Speed rating last time and will retain the services of Edgar Prado.
Charming Kitten and Jack Milton, the respective runner-up and third-placer in the Penn Mile, will both return for the Virginia Derby for Todd Pletcher. Charming Kitten, who recorded a close third in the Blue Grass before a ninth in the Kentucky Derby, figures to appreciate the stretch back out in distance and Joel Rosario rides the Kitten's Joy colt. Jack Milton is a lightly-raced but promising turf prospect. Winner of the Grade 3 Transylvania in his third career outing two starts back, the dark bay son of War Front closed fast to be beaten less than a length while facing a class check last time and John Velazquez will keep the mount.
Redwood Kitten exits a victory in the James W. Murphy on the Preakness undercard for Wesley Ward and War Dancer ships in for Kenny McPeek following a pair of stakes placings, including a third in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs.
One race prior to the Derby, 11 sophomore fillies will square off over 1 1/8 grassy miles in the Grade 3, $150,000 Virginia Oaks. Praia rates as the one to beat following runner-up finishes in the Regret and Edgewood at Churchill Downs.
The McPeek-trained filly was no match for Kitten's Dumplings in her last two outings and avoids that rival on Saturday. A maiden winner three starts back, Praia won't face the most accomplished field of rivals and Alan Garcia will be in to ride the daughter of Distorted Humor.
Other contenders include Cat's Holiday, who exits a third in the June 23 Revidere at Monmouth Park; Three Hearts, third in the May 27 Little Silver at Monmouth Park last out; Hedonemewrongsong, winner of a June 3 allowance in her 2013 bow for Jonathon Sheppard; and unbeaten Blossom's Trail, who jumps from a high-priced claiming event to stakes company for new trainer Contessa.
Three listed turf stakes will also be offered Saturday evening. The $75,000 Kitten's Joy features a field of 12 at 1 ½ miles, including South American Group 1 stars Al Qasr and Olympic Thunder. The $75,000 Chenery drew a cast on nine two-year-olds at 5 ½ furlongs and He's Got Talent is the probable favorite for Ward following a nice debut score at Churchill Downs. My Corinthian, third in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor last time, is also entered. The $75,000 Tippett for two-year-old fillies at 5 ½ furlongs attracted 10 runners and Ward has a leading contender in La Mejor Fiesta, a recent debut winner over maiden special weight rivals on turf.