ARLINGTON HANDICAP | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 1 1/4 MILES (TURF)
Robert Courtney Jr.'s evergreen nine-year-old Rahystrada made history on Saturday by winning the Grade 3, $200,000 Arlington Handicap for the third time. First victorious in this course-and-distance prep for the Arlington Million in 2010, the Byron Hughes-trained veteran went wire to wire in last year's running, and completed the unique hat trick with a pace-pressing trip here.
Rahystrada, the 3-1 third choice, was perched just off the flank of Beer Garden through fractions of :24 2/5 and :49 2/5. The 2-1 favorite, Dullahan, was settled within striking range in fifth.
After ratcheting up the pressure on the leader through six furlongs in 1:13 4/5, Rahystrada took command on the far turn through a mile in 1:38 2/5. Jockey Rosie Napravnik didn't set him down in earnest until cornering into the stretch, and the chestnut gelding responded to establish some daylight on his pursuers. That well-timed spurt was decisive.
Dullahan offered a solid rally in his first start back from Dubai, and the rail-skimming Temeraine punched home even more strongly late to get up for second, but neither could peg back the winner. Rahystrada maintained a half-length margin while posting a final time of 2:01 3/5 for 1 ¼ miles on the firm Arlington Park turf.
Temeraine, the 29-1 longest shot on the board, outfinished Dullahan by a neck for runner-up honors. But Dullahan's third-place effort was a fine prep for his title defense in the August 25 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Najjaar, who was well placed throughout, reported home fourth. Keep Up, Coalport and Beer Garden rounded out the order under the wire. Suntracer was scratched in favor of the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes earlier on the card, in which he placed second.
Rahystrada rewarded his fan club with $8.80, $4.20 and $3.20 and boosted his earnings to $1,371,750 from his 44-14-5-8 line. He had not won in his five starts since capturing the 2012 Arlington 'Cap, but had run well each time. Rahystrada was a dead-heat third in the Arlington Million in August, a close second as the defending champion in the Kentucky Cup Turf in September, and fourth in the Sycamore in October.
Reappearing with a commendable second to Big Blue Kitten in a May 2 allowance at Churchill Downs, he checked in fourth in a loaded renewal of the June 9 Monmouth Stakes. The top two from the Monmouth -- Boisterous and Big Blue Kitten -- have gone on to take Saturday's Man o' War and the July 6 United Nations, respectively.
Rahystrada's resume features a total of six stakes victories, with the 2009 River City and 2011 Colonial Turf Cup and Kentucky Cup Turf in addition to his Arlington 'Cap trophies, and seven stakes placings. He did not compete in the 2011 Arlington 'Cap.
Bred by Jaime S. Carrion Trustee in Kentucky, Rahystrada takes his name from his sire Rahy and dam Ministrada. An unraced Deputy Minister mare, Ministrada is also responsible for Grade 3 winner and sire Lone Star Sky. Rahystrada's second dam is Grade 2 winner Funistrada, who produced a Grade 2 winner Krisada. He hails from the family of Spring Venture, heroine of last year's Natalma and Mazarine, and 1985 grass champion Cozzene.