10/15/2013 1:28PM

Keeneland: Rahystrada tries to rebound in wide-open Sycamore

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Rahystrada, a three-time winner of the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, will have Leandro Goncalves aboard when breaking from post 6 in the three-turn Sycamore.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Pick any one of the nine, and nobody will laugh. The Sycamore Stakes is about as even as they come, with every starter having recently earned a Beyer Speed Figure right around 90 while consistently showing above-average form.

Rahystrada, with a bankroll approaching $1.4 million, is by far the biggest earner in the field for the Grade 3, $100,000 Sycamore at Keeneland, but the aberration of an 11th-place finish in his most recent race, the Aug. 17 Arlington Million, will lead to some skepticism among horseplayers.

There are, after all, plenty of other viable options in this 1 1/2-mile turf fixture, which anchors a Thursday program as the eighth of nine races. And Rahystrada, at age 9, has to be getting near the end of the line, doesn’t he?

“We’re just taking it one race at a time, as they say,” said Byron “Scooter” Hughes, who has trained Rahystrada for 34 of the gelding’s 45 career races for Robert Courtney Jr., a longtime friend and fellow Lexingtonian.

“We couldn’t find a thing wrong with him after the Million, so I still don’t know what the deal was. The only reason he didn’t run [in the Kentucky Turf Cup] at Kentucky Downs was because he was having some kind of allergy where he’d break out. But ever since we brought him back four or five days after the Million, he’s been training like a bear.”

Rahystrada, a three-time winner of the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap (2010, 2012, and 2013), will have Leandro Goncalves aboard when breaking from post 6 in the three-turn Sycamore.

The Sept. 14 Kentucky Turf Cup is one of the key races toward this 19th running of the Sycamore. It was won in a photo by Temeraine over Olympic Thunder, with Suntracer another length back in third. All three wheel back nearly five weeks later for this race.

Najjaar was scratched from the Kentucky Downs race as one of the program favorites after becoming slightly ill, but trainer Dan Peitz is satisfied with how the Shadwell Farm homebred has progressed in recent weeks at the Trackside training center in Louisville.

Two major East Coast stables have uncoupled entries in here: Shug McGaughey sends out Reflecting and Tricky Hat, while Graham Motion is represented by the duo of Eagle Poise and Nutello. Tricky Hat and Eagle Poise were separated by just a neck as the one-two finishers in the Laurel Turf Cup last month in Maryland.

Motion said Tuesday that because of possible rain in the forecast he is on the fence about running Nutello, but Eagle Poise is a definite. Eagle Poise has had two races since a 13-month layoff.

“Eagle Poise has done well in his two comeback races and had an unlucky trip last time from a tough [outside] post,” he said.

First post Thursday is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the Sycamore going at 4:49 p.m. A jockey autograph session to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund is scheduled before the races from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.