07/13/2013 7:26PM

Arlington: Rahystrada takes Arlington Handicap for a record third time

Four-Footed Fotos
The 9-year-old Rahystrada, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, captures the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap for the third time.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Forty-four starts into his career, 9-year-old Rahystrada is as willing and capable as he has ever been. Saturday at Arlington, he became the first horse to win the Arlington Handicap three times, capturing the Grade 3, $200,000 turf race by a half-length over longshot Temeraine.

“We’re as amazed as anyone,” said Byron “Scooter” Hughes, who trains Rahystrada for owner Robert Courtney Jr. “He keeps telling us he wants to go, so we go.”

Rahystrada, a gelding by Rahy, won his first Arlington Handicap in 2010. He didn’t contest the race in 2011, but won again in 2012. Cosmonaut and Round Table are the only other two-time winners of the race.

Rosie Napravnik, at Arlington for the first time in her career, rode Rahystrada to victory. The pair broke on top and fell into a perfect pressing trip, as hard-pulling Beer Garden set splits of 24.56 seconds for his first quarter-mile, 49.47 for the half, and 1:13.86 for six furlongs.

Rahystrada, cornering beautifully into the stretch (in stark contrast to his last start at Monmouth, where he lost all his momentum turning for home), buzzed right past the pacesetter, opened a clear lead, drifted out at the sixteenth pole as Dullahan dived to the inside, but quickly was straightened up by Napravnik, who rode him out through the finish. Rahystrada, who paid $8.80 as the second choice, was timed in 2:01.66 for 1 ¼ miles over firm turf.

Temeraine, a 29-1 shot, came up the fence for second, edging Dullahan by a neck. Dullahan, making his first start since two poor races in Dubai early this spring, ran solidly in defeat, waiting patiently behind the lead pack under Kent Desormeux before launching a wide rally just before the quarter pole. He finished with good energy and was one length clear of Najjaar. Keep Up, left with too much to do at the back of the pack, rallied decently for fifth. Coalport and Beer Garden finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

Rahystrada does most of his training in an expansive field that’s part of the Thoroughbred Training Center outside Lexington, Ky. Hughes trains a smallish string lacking high-end quality there, but has managed Rahystrada with deft precision. This past winter, Rahystrada got extra time to allow bothersome hooves to properly grow out, coming back into training in Florida before rejoining Hughes in Kentucky. He ran well in his comeback race at Churchill before the subpar performance at Monmouth, and showed Saturday he is back on his game. That means a return trip to the Arlington Million, a race Rahystrada has contested the last three years, finishing a good third in the 2012 edition.