06/14/2012 2:38PM

Colonial Turf Cup: Smart Bid tries to turn tables on Rahystrada

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Rahystrada will seek to defend his title in the Colonial Turf Cup.

Rahystrada had the best trip, but Smart Bid may have run the best race when those two finished first and second, respectively, in last year’s Colonial Turf Cup.

Saturday, Rahystrada and Smart Bid square off again in a very competitive eighth renewal of the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs. A field of 12 was entered, including Air Support, who won the 2011 Virginia Derby over this course.

The Colonial Turf Cup, run at 1 3/16 miles, tops a 12-race, all-turf card that begins at 6 p.m. Eastern. The Colonial Turf Cup goes as race 7 (8:36 p.m.) and will be run under the lights for the first time. It is also the last leg of a pick four wager that begins with the Old Nelson Starter Handicap and includes the Da Hoss Stakes and Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes.

Rahystrada, an 8-year-old gelding by Rahy, sat a perfect trip behind the speed – which included Smart Bid – before rallying along the rail to win last year’s Turf Cup by 1 1/2 lengths over Smart Bid.

Rahystrada won the Turf Cup after finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic – in which Smart Bid was second – at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.

This year, Rahystrada enters the Colonial Turf Cup off a third-place finish in a one-mile allowance race at Churchill on May 2.

“We were seeing if he still wanted to perform like he did last year and I think he passed that test very well,” said Scooter Hughes, the trainer of Rahystrada. “He was gaining on them at the end, which was nice to see. So, all in all, an excellent race I believe. He’s been doing better and better and we’re hoping for a big effort again.”

Sheldon Russell, aboard for the Colonial Turf Cup score last year, has the call again on Rahystrada from post 2.

Smart Bid dueled on the lead in last year’s Colonial Turf Cup and did well to hold second. Smart Bid has had more success coming from off the pace, including a head victory in the Fair Grounds Handicap in February.

Smart Bid is coming off two sub-par efforts, but trainer Graham Motion said the horse has been training so well at Fair Hill that he’s inclined to give him another shot.

“His last couple of races have been a little disappointing, but he’s been running the same races and he’s not getting beat very far,” Motion said. “He had a good work for this race which kind of twisted my arm.”

Edgar Prado, Smart Bid’s regular rider, has the call.

Air Support won the Virginia Derby here last July at 6-1 but didn’t run again the remainder of the year. He has not come back to form yet in two starts this year, but has had excuses in both races.

In an allowance race at Keeneland, Air Support did not race with hind shoes after one shoe became dislodged in the paddock and could not be repaired. In the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico, Air Support had traffic throughout.

“In the Dixie he never had a chance to run,” trainer Shug McGaughey said at Belmont on Thursday. “He tried to make a couple of runs. He’s trained well awfully well here. I think he’s going to go down there and run awfully well.”

Turbo Compressor looked like a budding turf star when he won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Gulfstream on March 18. He came back and finished eighth in the Woodford Reserve. He looms the primary speed in this spot.

“I’m not sure he wants to go that far, but he’ll appreciate firm ground and it looks like a spot he could be on the lead,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We’ll let him take it as far as we can.”

Joe Bravo, who guided Little Mike to a front-running score in the Woodford Reserve at Churchill on Derby Day, has the call on Turbo Compressor.

Humble and Hungry, Forte Dei Marmi and Casino Host – the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishes in the Dixie at Pimlico – are all in with a chance.