Former claimer Rahystrada raced into the record books with his third Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) victory July 13 (VIDEO), the only horse to have won that many editions of the 1 1/4-mile turf event at Arlington Park. Dullahan finished a close third behind Temeraine while favored at 2-1, a solid prep for his title defense in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar on Aug. 25.
Robert Courtney Jr.'s 9-year-old Rahy gelding—who began his career with a win all the way back in July of 2006 at Ellis Park—was starting for the 44th time and won his 14th race for a sixth career stakes score. He took the 2010 Arlington 'Cap by half a length over Just as Well, and beat Boisterous by a neck in the 2012 running.
Less than an hour before Rahystrada's record-setting win in the $200,000 stakes at Arlington under jockey Rosie Napravnik, Boisterous notched his first grade I score in the Man o' War Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park. Last time out, Rahystrada was fourth behind a victorious Boisterous in the June 8 Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIT) at Monmouth Park.
"We're as amazed as anybody," said trainer Byron "Scooter" Hughes. "He keeps telling us he wants to go, so we go. Great ride by Rosie. She had it all in hand. It was great."
The Hughes trainee broke well from post 6 and was part of a four-horse race for supremacy first time past the stands. Beer Garden sorted his way to lead by about one length for a quarter in :24.56 and a half in :49.47, with Napravnik keeping her mount close behind in second.
"He's very talented. He's got as much heart as any of them," said Napravnik, who won her second graded stakes of the afternoon after previously capturing the Stars and Stripes Stakes (gr. IIIT) aboard Dark Cove.
Three-quarters went in 1:13.86 as Rahystrada inched his way up to the leader, in perfect position to take command turning for home. Coming down off the turn through a mile in 1:38.44, it was the old gelding's race to lose—and he clung stubbornly to his advantage while drifting out in spite of a rail-skimming rush from Temeraine and a dive to the inside by Dullahan, who had been closing steadily outside from fifth but could not make up enough ground before the wire. Final time for the distance on firm turf was 2:01.66.
"I had a perfect trip," said Eddie Castro, who rode the runner-up. "I think a little more speed and he could have won. He ran a great race and in the stretch he was flying."
"I thought he looked good finishing," trainer Dale Romans added of Dullahan. "I think he was running hard and he got a little spooked by Rahystrada drifting in front of him. It stopped his momentum a little bit. I thought he ran a nice race. We are headed to the Pacific Classic after this."
It was a first victory of 2013 in three starts for Rahystrada, who began the season with a runner-up finish three-quarters of a length behind Big Blue Kitten in a May 2 optional claiming event at Churchill Downs before his Monmouth Stakes effort. Big Blue Kitten came back to run second in the Monmouth, then won the July 6 United Nations Stakes (gr. IT).
Hughes said he could plan a fourth try at the Aug. 17 Arlington Million (gr. IT) for Rahystrada, who ran third in the 2012 edition, fifth in 2011, and fourth in 2010. Thanks to his Arlington Handicap win, the chestnut gelding would have his entry and start fees waived for the $1 million event. A run in the Sept. 4 Kentucky Cup Turf (gr. IIIT) at Kentucky Downs is also a possibility; Rahystrada won that race in 2011 and was second last year.
Bred in Kentucky by Jamie S. Carrion, Trustee out of the Deputy Minister mare Ministrada, Rahystrada improved his record to 14-5-8. He is also the winner of the 2009 River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) and the 2011 Colonial Turf Cup.