Rahystrada, Robert Courtney Jr.’s venerable 8-year-old gelding, held off the late surge of 9-5 favorite Boisterous to win the 77th running of the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a neck July 14 (VIDEO).
The 1 ¼-mile stakes, worth $200,000, was one of four graded stakes on the Million Day Preview card at Arlington Park . Rahystrada won the race in 2010.
"It's a great feeling (to win this race again after two years)," said Courtney. "He's been a wonderful horse. Who would imagine an 8-year-old gelding coming back and winning this for the second time?"
Rahystrada, ridden by Joel Rosario, was on the muscle early in the $200,000 Arlington Handicap while carrying 120 pounds—two fewer than Phipps Stable’s highweight Boisterous. He ceded the early lead to longshot Cherokee Lord but took the advantage as the field rounded the first turn. He never looked back.
Setting sensible fractions of :24.15 and :48.51, he held the lead down the backstretch from Nikki's Sandcastle and Cherokee Lord. It was several lengths back to Mister Marti Gras and the rest of the field.
Rahystrada headed into the final bend after six furlongs in 1:13.19 and a mile in 1:38.11. Boisterous came with a late run while wide under Alan Garcia, but they ran out of real estate as Rahystrada hit the line in 2:01.84. It wasn’t a totally lost day for the Phipps Stable as its Point of Entry won the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park.
It was 2 ½ lengths back to Mister Marti Gras in third and was followed under the line by Cherokee Lord, Sky Blazer, Nikki’s Sandcastle, Proceed Bee, and Mavericking. Southern Anthem and Joinem were scratches.
"They told me there wasn't a whole lot of speed in the race," Rosario said of his surprising front-running tactics with Rahystrada. "I sent him out of there and tried to hold my position. He likes to run close to the pace. He took the bit on the backside and he was gone after that."
The winner, trained by Byron Hughes, returned $10.60, $4.60, and $3.20. Boisterous paid $3.20 and $2.20 while Mister Marti Gras paid $3.20 to show. The 8-9 exacta paid $30.20.
Rahystrada finished fifth in last year’s Arlington Million (gr. IT) in one of four appearances over the Arlington turf course. The son of Rahy—Ministrada, by Deputy Minister, has now won 13 times and placed 10 times from 38 starts. He went over the million-dollar mark in career earnings after running third in his last start in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs. He has now banked $1,115,700.
The Arlington Handicap was the first win in three starts on the year for the Kentucky-bred. He was bred by Jaime S. Carrion Trustee. Last year he landed the Colonial Turf Cup and the Kentucky Cup Turf (gr. IIIT).