04/30/2012 2:56PM

Churchill Downs: Rahystrada a question after layoff

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Rahystrada, with Sheldon Russell riding, wins the Colonial Turf Cup.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Rahystrada had his drive for $1 million in earnings cut short when he exited the Grade 1 Canadian International last fall with a hind-foot abscess, but the setback was only temporary. The 8-year-old gelding will return to action Wednesday at Churchill Downs in a stakes-caliber allowance race that trainer Scooter Hughes is hoping will lead to another productive season and a toppling of that coveted milestone.

Rahystrada, an earner of $942,300 for owner Robert Courtney Jr., has been away since finishing 12th of 16 at Woodbine in mid-October. “The abscess was fairly severe, and it’s taken him a while to get over it,” said Hughes, who is based at the Thoroughbred training center in Lexington. “But he seems to be good now. We’re going back in this race to see if he still wants to be what he was.”

Several of the opponents for Rahystrada in the $65,000, one-mile turf race obviously have more recency than him, which levels the playing field somewhat and makes for an intriguing featured ninth of 10 Wednesday races. Mutual Trust, a highly regarded Juddmonte Farms homebred trained by Bill Mott, is here after scratching out of the recent off-the-turf Miami Mile at Calder, while one-time Triple Crown hopeful Brethren also is in the cast of eight older horses.

On his best, Rahystrada would seem to have an edge, but clearly the layoff is just a starting point for his season. “We had him on the farm here in Kentucky until we sent him to Ocala in early January,” said Hughes. “We brought him back here around the end of March. He’s really trained well all winter. We’re taking it one race at a time, as they say, but if he does well here, we’d like to take him back to Virginia” in June for the Colonial Cup, a race Rahystrada won last year.

Greta Kuntzweiler has the mount on Rahystrada from post 4.

Mutual Trust (post 2, Corey Nakatani) has been puzzling thus far for Mott. A Group 1 winner last year in France, the 4-year-old colt was sixth as the favorite in the Fort Lauderdale Handicap at Gulfstream Park in his stateside debut in January, then fared no better when he ran seventh in the Canadian Turf.

Likewise, Brethren (post 7, Rafael Bejarano) has disappointed of late after flashing earlier brilliance. The WinStar Farm colt, a half-brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, became a 2011 Derby consideration after winning his first three starts, but he has done little since then, including a fifth-place finish in his seasonal debut in late March at Gulfstream.

The feature also includes two earners of more than $500,000 in Tend (post 1, Manny Cruz) and Strike Impact (post 3, Robby Albarado), as well as viable contenders in Seruni (post 5, Corey Lanerie) and Lil Bit o’ Fun (post 6, Julien Leparoux). Steve’s Double (post 8, Gabriel Saez) rounds out the lineup.

The Wednesday card includes one other allowance (race 7), a $55,300, first-level turf race that drew a well-matched and oversubscribed field of fillies and mares. First post is 12:45 p.m. Eastern, with HRTV providing extensive coverage throughout the afternoon.