Robert Courtney’s Rahystrada, in hand for most of the 1 3/16 miles of the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup, cut loose in the lane to win the June 18 fixture at Colonial Downs for trainer Byron Hughes and jockey Sheldon Russell (VIDEO).
Rahystrada, a 7-year-old gelding by Rahy out of the Deputy Minister mare Ministrada, sat patiently along the rail in fifth for most of the race, found a hole inside turning for home, and accelerated away to win by 1 1/2 lengths over favored Smart Bid. Dark Cove was another half-length behind in third.
Fractions for the race, run on a turf course rated firm, were :24.61 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.87 for a half-mile, 1:13.12 for six furlongs, and 1:37.18 for one mile. The final time was 1:54.68.
Rahystrada, bred in Kentucky by Jaime Carrion, paid $9.80 to win as the second choice in a field of eight. It was the fourth victory of the day for jockey Russell.
“It’s the biggest win of my life,” Russell said. “When I met with the trainer and owner before the race and asked their advice, they said to just trust the horse, and that the horse will know when it’s time. I had good position in the first turn, caught some traffic in the second turn, and when a hole opened up coming out of the turn, I just went for it.”
“I’m good friends with (trainer) Mike Matz,” owner Courtney said after the race. ” So I asked him who he’d recommend to ride my horse. Michael said Sheldon Russell was a top notch rider, and I’d say it was pretty good advice.”
Hughes was pleased with the performance by Rahystrada, who was sort of a late-bloomer.
“He really started firing at age five,” Hughes said. “And he has gotten better every year. He’s an easy shipper, and I thought he’d do well at this track.”
Rahystrada now has 11 wins in 32 starts and more than $800,000 in earnings. All 11 victories have come on the turf.
The Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up previously was for 3-year-olds and served as a local prep for the grade II Virginia Derby on the grass. Because the conditions of the race changed, the Turf Cup lost its grade II status this year.
In the $100,000 Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares, Flaxman Holdings’ Aruna got back on the winning track with a victory as the heavy favorite in a field of seven (VIDEO).
Trained by Graham Motion and ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Aruna rated in sixth for the first five-eighths of a mile in the 1 1/8-mile race, then rallied to pull away and win by 1 1/2 lengths over Dyna Waltz. Apple Charlotte, also trained by Motion, was another length back in third.
The final time for the distance on a firm course was 1:49.21. The winner paid $3.
Aruna, a 4-year-old Mr. Greeley filly bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings, won her first three races in the United States. In her last start at Churchill Downs, she finished second behind Aviate in the grade II Distaff Turf Mile.