Eight-year-old Rahystrada defends his title in the Colonial Turf Cup June 16 at Colonial Downs against a full field that includes five horses that ran in last month's Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT).
Last year's Turf Cup was the first time the $500,000 event was opened up to older horses after previously being restricted to 3-year-olds. As a result, both Rahystrada and the 2011 runner-up and 8-5 favorite Smart Bid are back.
In addition, the race has attracted last season's Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) winner, Air Support, as well as third-place finisher Casino Host. While the race lost its grade II status as a result of the change in conditions, track officials appear to have succeeded in their attempt to bring back past standouts at Colonial Downs.
Twelve are entered in the 1 3/16-mile turf clash, which will be run under the lights for the first time at 8:36 p.m. EDT. The track went to night racing on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays beginning June 7. First post is 6 p.m. Immediately preceding the Turf Cup is the $100,000 Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares at nine furlongs.
Robert E. Courtney Jr.'s hard-knocking gelding Rahystrada won last year's event by 1 1/2 lengths over Smart Bid, surging to the lead in the stretch along the inside and holding sway. Sheldon Russell, who rode the chestnut by Rahy, will be back aboard for trainer Byron Hughes in Rahystrada's Colonial return. Russell has been on fire at the New Kent, Va., track, winning 14 races between June 8-10.
Rahystrada, winner of the Kentucky Cup Turf last year as well, has had one start so far this year. He ran an even third in a high-priced one-mile allowance/optional claiming turf race at Churchill Downs May 2. He is a lifetime winner of 12 of 36 races with earnings of $948,800. Rahystrada breaks from post 2.
Leading the entrants from the Dixie Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse May 19 is Sagamore Farm's Humble and Hungry. He finished second to Hudson Steele at odds of 16-1. Trained by Ignacio Correas, the 4-year-old Limehouse colt's biggest win came in Churchill's Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) last November at 11-1 odds.
Also exiting the Dixie are Great Britain-bred Forte Dei Marmi (third), Casino Host (fourth), Smart Bid (fifth), and Air Support (sixth).
Stella Perdomo's 6-year-old Forte Dei Marmi, trained by Roger Attfield, closed much ground from last while six wide at the three-sixteenth pole in the Dixie. The Selkirk gelding, group-placed at Chester last year, has won one four starts in North America since his arrival in September. He has finished in the money in all three of his 2012 starts.
Gary and Mary West's Casino Host began the year with back-to-back wins for trainer Chad Brown, including a victory in the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots April 1. In last year's Virginia Derby, the strong-closing 4-year-old by Dynaformer lost by one length. He carries top weight of 124 pounds and will be ridden by Paco Lopez.
Augustin Stable's homebred Smart Bid won the Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIT) in February but was well beaten in the Muniz (seventh) and the Dixie. In last year's Colonial Turf Cup, the 6-year-old son of Smart Strike battled on the lead throughout before giving in reluctantly in deep stretch.
Air Support, a homebred owned by Stuart Janney III and trained by Shug McGaughey, went to the sidelines after winning last year's Virginia Derby by a neck over Banned. In the Dixie, he was steadied.
Also in the field is million-dollar earner Gourmet Dinner, winner of the 2010 Delta Jackpot (gr. III). Owned by Sugar Bear Stable and trained by Bruce Brown, the 4-year-old son of Trippi made his turf debut at Monmouth Park May 19 and was a willing third in the one-mile Elkwood Stakes.
Bold Hawk makes his 8-year-old seasonal debut for trainer James Toner and Ninety North Racing Stable. He was second in the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) at Aqueduct in his most recent start Nov. 5.
Turbo Compressor looks to rebound from an eighth-place finish in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill May 5.
$500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (Race 7, 8:36 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 3/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Forte Dei Marmi (GB), R Maragh, 118, R L Attfield
2. Rahystrada (KY), S Russell, 120, B G Hughes
3. Atoned (FL), R Monterrey, 118, D B Martins
4. Casino Host (KY), P Lopez, 124, C C Brown
5. Air Support (KY), A O Solis, 120, C R McGaughey III
6. Bold Hawk (KY), J Pimentel, 118, J J Toner
7. Turbo Compressor (FL), J Bravo, 118, T A Pletcher
8. Silver Tie Affair (VA), F Boyce, 118, H Elamri
9. Humble and Hungry (KY), R A Dominguez, 120, I Correas IV
10. Smart Bid (PA), E S Prado, 120, H G Motion
11. Gourmet Dinner (FL), M J Luzzi, 118, B R Brown
12. Tilden Lane (KY), M Franklin, 118, K Chudzik