06/19/2011 7:59AM

Colonial Turf Cup goes to former claimer Rahystrada

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Coady Photography
Sheldon Russell collects one of his four wins on the card aboard Rahystrada in the featured Colonial Turf Cup.

Rahystrada rode the rails under Sheldon Russell to a 1 1/2-length victory over favored Smart Bid in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup on Saturday at Colonial Downs.

A 7-year-old former claimer, Rahystrada won for the 11th time in 31 starts. The $291,000 winner’s share of the purse was a boon to the bankroll of Rahystrada, who is owned by Robert Courtney and trained by Byron Hughes, boosting his career earnings to $773,824.

Rahystrada now has gone through several noteworthy form surges since twice starting in $50,000 claiming races during the summer of 2009. Two races after finishing fourth for that claiming price, Rahystrada won the Grade 3 River Cities in November 2009 at odds of 56-1. He was good again last spring and summer, finishing third in the Grade 2 Dixie before capturing the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap at 6-1. Fourth in the Arlington Million, Rahystrada completed his campaign with a fifth and an eighth, but after a close fourth last month in the Grade 1 Turf Classic on Derby Day at Churchill, and Saturday’s professional win, Rahystrada appears to be at least as good right now as at any previous career juncture.

Russell, who won four races on Saturday’s card, made an early inside move with Rahystrada, winding up on the fence just in behind pace-pressing Smart Bid as the Turf Cup field came into the far turn. Smart Bid does not typically lead, but with the absence of real pace Saturday, Smart Bid and Guys Reward made the running at a modest tempo, passing the half-mile in 48.87 seconds and six furlongs in 1:13.12. Guys Reward dropped away in the stretch, and though Smart Bid had something left, Rahystrada overtook him with about a furlong left to run and edged away from there. Winning time for the 1 3/16 miles was 1:54.68.

Rahystrada was no longshot this go-round; he took concerted betting action and paid $9.80 to win. Dark Cove finished third, a half-length behind Smart Bid, with Court Vision fourth.

The winner, a gelded son of Rahy--Ministrada, was bred in Kentucky by Jaime S. Carrion, Trustee.

Aruna delivers as favorite in All Along

Trainer Graham Motion’s bid in the Turf Cup fell short when Smart Bid was beaten into second, but the Motion-trained Aruna did not disappoint in the Grade 3, $100,000 All Along, convincingly beating Dyna Waltz by 1 1/2 lengths.

Held up sixth of seven behind moderately quick fractions of 23.83 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.88 for the first half, Aruna ($3) rallied wide on the far turn under Ramon Dominguez to reach contention by the top of the stretch. She continued on comfortably racing in the clear on the outside and was always going better than Dyna Waltz, who plugged along inside for second, one length better than Apple Charlotte. Winning time for the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf was 1:49.21.

It was the fifth win from 10 starts for Aruna, a 4-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley – Surya bred and owned by Flaxman Holdings. Second last out to Aviate in the Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill, Aruna won for the first time at a distance longer than 1 1/16 miles

* Followmyfootsteps ($20.40) and jockey Rajiv Maragh scored the narrowest of wins over front-running Action Andy in the $50,000 Da Hoss Stakes. Followmyfootsteps surged along the inside and nipped Action Andy in the final stride to win the one-mile stakes in 1:36.47.