08/15/2012 2:53PM

Arlington Park: Rahystrada draws poorly for his third Million try

Four-Footed Fotos
Rahystrada wins the Arlington Handicap. For the second year in a row he will break from post 1 in the Arlington Million.

CHICAGO – When he lines up for the 30th Arlington Million on Saturday, 8-year-old Rahystrada will become the 10th horse to have made three starts in the vaunted turf race, joining the likes of John Henry and The Tin Man. You’d think The Fates might show a little respect for an old warrior, but no: For the second year in a row, Rahystrada will break from post 1, a potentially disadvantageous spot in the 1 1/4-mile race.

A close fourth in 2010, Rayhstrada finished fifth, beaten less than four lengths, last season. The Million starts on the end of the far turn, and the horse in post 1 breaks from the gate into open space before hitting the home straight for the first time. From that spot last year, Rahystrada fell farther behind than desirable and never could bridge the gap.

“He was in the one hole and that sure didn’t help,” trainer Byron “Scooter” Hughes said late Wednesday morning, a couple hours before Rahystrada went and drew it again when entries were announced for the Million, the Beverly D., the Secretariat, and the inaugural American St. Leger during a brief event at WGN studios here in Chicago.

Beyond the fraught starting spot, there will be nine or 10 rivals with which Rahystrada has to contend. The 2012 Million lacks a standout, a point reflected by Boisterous being made the morning-line favorite at odds of 4-1. Boisterous, a fast-closing second here last month in the Arlington Handicap, drew post 2 and will be ridden for the first time by Jose Lezcano, who replaces Alan Garcia.

Barring the unforeseen, Little Mike, who leaves from post 4 under Ramon Dominguez, will set the pace in his first try beyond 1 1/8 miles. In the nine-furlong Turf Classic on Derby Day this year, Little Mike carried his speed to a front-running win. Willcox Inn, Cherokee Lord, and Vertiformer are the other U.S.-based horses in the race. Vertiformer was cross-entered in the American St. Leger and is uncertain to start in either spot.

A five-strong overseas contingent includes Afsare, Colombian, Treasure Beach, Wigmore Hall, and Crackerjack King. Treasure Beach, the 2011 Secretariat winner, has earned more than $2.2 million while maintaining a higher profile than the other Euros, but he has finished no better than fourth in four 2012 starts.

As for Rahystrada, he has won his three Arlington turf starts that didn’t come in the Million and clearly enjoys the local course. Hughes began training the gelding for Robert Courtney in the middle of 2008 after Rahystrada had surgery to remove a bone chip, and never has won a graded stakes with a horse other than his small stable’s star.

“It took us awhile to figure him out,” said Hughes, who is based at the Thoroughbred Training Center near Lexington, Ky. “We finally started training him in a field almost all the time, and we still do that unless it’s too dry. We even give him two-minute licks out there. He doesn’t enjoy going around the track too much.”

Rahystrada showed he has the speed to get good Million position winning the Arlington Handicap on the lead, and Hughes hopes for a clean trip not far behind Little Mike. Maybe his third Million will be the charm. It might better, because Rahystrada, at this late stage, will not be getting many more chances.

* Ten fillies and mares, including four European shippers, were entered in the Grade 1 $750,000 Beverly D. Marketing Mix (post 8 and Leparoux) and Aruna (post 7, Dominguez) are the highest-regarded Americans.

* Eight 3-year-olds were entered in the Grade 1, $500,000 Secretariat, which should have Silver Max as a strong favorite. Silver Max, with Robby Albarado named to ride, drew post 8 and is one of three horses – along with Cozzetti and Finnegan’s Wake – entered by trainer Dale Romans. The French invader Bayrir could prove a major player, while New York-based Summer Front never has won all five of his turf starts.

* The inaugural running of the $400,000 American St. Leger, a one and 1 1/16-mile grass race, drew 12 entrants but only 10 might start. Vertiformer’s connections could choose the Million or not run at all Saturday, while Suntracer only will start if something this week befalls his stable-mate, Ioya Bigtime, trainer Chris Block said.