09/13/2012 1:14PM

Kentucky Downs: Rahystrada back to defend his title in Kentucky Turf Cup

Four-Footed Fotos
Rahystrada enters the Kentucky Cup Turf in top form.

Four weeks after being good enough to salvage a dead heat for third in the Arlington Million, Rahystrada will be back in Franklin, Ky., to defend his title in the premier race of the Kentucky Downs meet, the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup.

All signs point to him being good enough to win again.

“I think he’s obviously as good as he was last year,” said Scooter Hughes, who trains 8-year-old Rahystrada for Robert Courtney Jr. “He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down or not wanting to do it.”

Rahystrada, with Corey Lanerie to ride, is one of eight older horses in the $200,000 Turf Cup, which is run around two irregular Kentucky Downs turns at 1 1/2 miles. Last year, coming off a fifth-place finish in the Million, Rahystrada drove clear to capture the Turf Cup by nearly four lengths as the 4-5 favorite.

Hughes said Rahystrada, an earner of nearly $1.2 million from 39 career starts, has thrived in recent weeks at his home base, the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington.

“We’re ready to roll,” he said. “He’s shown he likes that course and he can handle it. We used to gallop him in the fields around here, so he knows what the ups and downs are like. We don’t have anything in mind for him beyond this, because he’s already done so much. We’re down to five or six runs a year, and that’s been good for everybody.”

Rahystrada might not be quite as heavily favored this year in the Turf Cup, with his opposition including such capable sorts as Ioya Bigtime (post 2, Jeffrey Sanchez) and Lake Drop (post 4, Shaun Bridgmohan).

Ioya Bigtime won the Stars and Stripes two starts back at Arlington Park before finishing second in the inaugural American St. Leger on the Aug. 18 Million undercard.

“The distance and the timing are the main things bringing us there,” said Chris Block, trainer of Ioya Bigtime.

Lake Drop, shipping in from Maryland for Team Valor International and trainer Graham Motion, is the sleeper of the field. The 4-year-old colt adds Lasix and blinkers when trying to improve over a fourth-place finish in his North American debut in the American St. Leger.

Other Turf considerations include Kindergarden Kid, a recent $50,000 claim for the ever-dangerous Mike Maker; Lake Tahoe, a stakes-proven performer exiting the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga; and Rezif, the 2010 Turf Cup winner who has since gone winless in eight races. The balance of the field is Canaveral and Cozy Kitten.

The Kentucky Turf Cup had been known as the Kentucky Cup Turf since its 1998 inception before undergoing a name switch for this 15th running. It goes as the ninth of 10 Saturday races. First post is 1:35 p.m. Central, with the Turf Cup going at 5:35. Three other $75,000 stakes also are on the card. HRTV has coverage.

◗ All-sources handle for the first three cards at the six-day Kentucky Downs meet totaled a little more than $4 million, surpassing the entire total of $3,675,453 for the four-day meet in 2011. Track president Corey Johnsen said earlier this week the track has applied for eight dates for 2013 – three in late March and five in September.