07/11/2013 3:16PM

Arlington: Rahystrada has shot at making history in Arlington Handicap

Four-Footed Fotos
Rahystrada, winning the 2012 Arlington Handicap, will try to become the first horse to win the Grade 3 event three times..

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The Arlington Handicap dates to 1929. The legendary Round Table won it twice, in 1958 and 1959, and Cosmonaut came home first in 2006 and 2007. But Rahystrada on Saturday can become the first horse to win the Arlington Handicap three times, a feat that would be especially noteworthy coming from a 9-year-old former claimer.

Rahystrada won the 2010 Arlington Handicap, didn’t start in the 2011 edition, and won again last year, going on to finish third in the Arlington Million.

“He acts as good or better this year,” said Kentucky-based trainer Byron Hughes. “We’re looking for a big effort from him Saturday. We like it up there at Arlington. He likes it there, too.”

Rahystrada is one of eight horses entered in a solid edition of the Grade 3, $200,000 Arlington Handicap, one of four Grade 3 turf stakes on Million Preview Day. The graded-stakes sequence starts with race 7, the Stars and Stripes, and moves through the Modesty Handicap and the American Derby before ending with the Arlington Handicap. The races are linked by a $100,000 guaranteed pick four, and will be followed by a competitive renewal of the $65,000 Coach Jimi Lee.

Rahystrada finished second in his seasonal debut, a Churchill allowance race, but was beaten only by Big Blue Kitten, who last weekend won the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth. Rahystrada went to Monmouth for his second start this year, where he failed to produce his best form and finished a one-paced fourth in the Monmouth Stakes.

“He hit a soft spot turning for home that cost him all his momentum,” said Hughes. “That’s what did us in there. He came out of it fine. He was just mad he didn’t do better.”

Rahystrada does much of his daily training in a spacious field next to the Thoroughbred Training Center outside Lexington, Ky. He shows only one published work on the training track there since his Monmouth trip, but Hughes said a second work came on a day when no clocker was present.

Rahystrada has a touch of tactical pace that can serve him well in a 1 1/4-mile race lacking speed. Coalport might wind up on the early lead, but is a somewhat tricky read. He has won two straight on the Arlington turf, but both came against Illinois-breds, and Coalport is unproven at longer distances.

“I think he can go that far. He’s training super right now,” said trainer Wayne Catalano.

Dullahan is the race’s only Grade 1 winner, but his big victories – in the Blue Grass and the Pacific Classic – came on Polytrack, and Dullahan has failed to win in five grass tries. Last seen finishing 11th in the Dubai World Cup, Dullahan has a return engagement in the Pacific Classic as a major summer goal for Donegal Racing and trainer Dale Romans.

Keep Up won the Grade 3 River City with a furious late rally last fall, and after two excusable losses to start his season, he looked good capturing the Swoon’s Son at 1 1/16 miles over the local course last month.

“The way he finishes, the longer distance should really help him,” said trainer Alex Clarkson.

The Handicap’s 10-furlong distance, trainer Dan Peitz hopes, will suit Najjaar, who ran well in the 12-furlong Louisville Handicap but flattened out in deep stretch.

“I’m in the middle of his 4-year-old year and I’m still not sure of his best distance,” Peitz said. “I do know he’s better on grass than on dirt or Poly.”

Suntracer is cross-entered in the Stars and Stripes, and is more likely to start in that spot.