06/01/2013 8:29PM

Penn National: Rydilluc rolls in Penn Mile to ascend to top of 3-year-old turf division

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Barbara D. Livingston
Rydilluc, under Edgar Prado, improves to 4 for 4 racing on turf by winning the $500,000 Penn Mile for 3-year-olds.

Trainer Gary Contessa thought he might have a Kentucky Derby horse in Rydilluc. The Derby dream died, but Contessa might have the best 3-year-old turf horse in the country.

Rydilluc ran his grass record to a perfect 4 for 4 with a good win Saturday evening at Penn National in the inaugural edition of the $500,00 Penn Mile. Rating beautifully in second under Edgar Prado as longshot Yougotthatgoinforu laid down moderate splits, Rydilluc dashed to the lead in upper stretch and held at bay two talented Todd Pletcher-trained horses, Charming Kitten and Jack Milton, to win by three-quarters of a length. Noble Tune, a division leader coming into the race, tried to rally wide but flattened out and finished fifth.  

Rydilluc, who races for a partnership, paid $5.20 to win as the favorite, and notched his second stakes victory. A $150,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase last year, Rydilluc is a son of Medaglia d’Oro and the Clever Trick mare Swift and Classy. His time for one mile on firm turf was 1:33.99, less than one second off the course record and impressive considering the opening half-mile went in only 47.84 seconds, the first six furlongs in 1:11.15. Not yet on the lead after three-quarters, Rydilluc ran his final quarter-mile in about 22.70 seconds.

 Rydilluc acted up badly in the paddock, Contessa said, when he finished a distant fifth in his career debut last October, his only start on dirt. Since then, he has done little wrong, though a pacesetting fourth-place finish over Polytrack in the Grade 1 Blue Grass appeared to knock Rydilluc out of the Kentucky Derby picture. As it turned out, the small number of Derby qualifying points Rydilluc earned in the Blue Grass would have been enough to make the Derby starting gate, but the week before the race, Rydilluc bruised a hoof, costing him several days of training, according to Contessa.

With the Triple Crown nearly past now, and the turf season hitting full swing, Rydilluc and Contessa are in an enviable spot. Logical grass options this summer would include the $500,000 Virginia Derby on July 13 at Colonial Downs and the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 17 at Arlington.

“He just stamped himself as arguably the best 3-year-old turf horse right now, and we’re going to stay there,” Contessa said.

All-sources wagering on the Penn Mile was $1,139,478, far and away the largest single-race handle in the 40-year history of the track. The previous record was for the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup Handicap on Aug. 1, 2009, which handled $377,365.

After four races on the card, the all-source handle already had reached $2,281,425, surpassing the previous all-time best handle for a full race card, $2,173,921, on Dec. 26, 1998.