Rahystrada faces seven in Kentucky Turf Cup title defense

Rahystrada will return to Kentucky Downs in good form Saturday, dead-heating for third in the Grade 1 Arlington Million most recently, and figures to be a strong favorite as he goes for a second straight victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 <a target=

Rahystrada will return to Kentucky Downs in good form Saturday, dead-heating for third in the Grade 1 Arlington Million most recently, and figures to be a strong favorite as he goes for a second straight victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Kentucky Turf Cup. The multiple Grade 3-winning millionaire posted a 3 3/4-length score last year in the 1 1/2-mile affair over the undulating, European-style turf course.

Trained by Byron Hughes, Rahystrada shows no signs of slowing down at age eight. The venerable gelding closed fast in the Colonial Turf Cup three starts back, finishing a respectable third behind Turbo Compressor and Air Support, and followed with a nice win in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap. He was left with too much to do from off the pace last time, but passed a number of rivals in the Arlington Million stretch to wind up only three lengths back of the winning Little Mike. Corey Lanerie will pick up the mount on the chestnut.

Ioya Bigtime and Lake Drop, the respective second- and fourth-place finishers from the American St. Leger on the Million undercard, will both line up for the Kentucky Turf Cup. Ioya Bigtime has been showing more speed this season for trainer Chris Block, including a front-running tally in the Grade 3 Stars N Stripes two starts back, and the five-year-old is the possible pacesetter Saturday with jockey Jeffrey Sanchez. Lake Drop captured a Italian Group 3 event two starts back and improved his position late in the U.S. debut last out. Trainer Graham Motion will add Lasix and blinkers for the Team Valor-owned colt and Shaun Bridgmohan rides.

Tahoe Lake is a contender for Kenny McPeek. The six-year-old gelding didn't fire when fifth in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer last out, but his two previous efforts -- a runner-up in the John's Call Stakes and a third in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes -- are good enough to challenge at this level. David Cohen will take over the reins.

Rezif, the 2010 Kentucky Turf Cup upsetter, is back again for this year's edition, but the seven-year-old gelding appears past his prime, recording unplaced efforts in his last two starts against claiming rivals. Cozy Kitten was a stakes winner over the course last year, taking the Franklin Simpson at a mile, but the four-year-old did not show much when making his 2012 bow in an allowance/optional claiming event at Saratoga last out. Longshots Canaveral and Kindergarden Kid round out the field.

Three other stakes races will be offered on the undercard. Rip Roarin Ritchie, winner of the grassy Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park, tops a field of 12 youngsters in the $75,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Stakes at seven furlongs. Leandro Goncalves has the mount on the Wesley Ward-trained speedster. Central Banker, who exits a Saratoga maiden win for Al Stall, and smart Ellis maiden scorer Lew and Mike are also entered.

Zip Cash Back is the lone stakes heroine among eight contestants in the $75,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies at seven furlongs. The Tevis McCauley charge exits a wire-to-wire tally in the July 21 Tippett Stakes at Colonial Downs and will have Goncalves up. Trainers Dale Romans and Larry Jones will send out a couple of promising maiden winners in Moonwalk and Hit Girl, respectively.

Seven females will square off over 1 1 5/16 miles in the $75,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon and Clare Skies Ahead is the one to beat for conditioner Flint Stites. The former claimer missed by only a  neck when second in the Grade 3 All Along Stakes in June and exits a win in the Omnibus Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com