Photo: Four Footed Fotos
No horse had won the Arlington Handicap more than twice in its 84 year history until about 2 minutes and 1.66 seconds past 5:25 yesterday when Rahystrada held a half-length lead over longshot Temeraine and crossed the line first. The one-time claiming horse who's career began at Ellis Park in 2006 has now surpassed the peerless Round Table to become the race's only three-time champion. The nine-year-old chestnut also became the oldest winner of the Arlington Handicap, breaking his own record from last year.
"He's got as much heart as any of them," said Rosie Napravnik, who was aboard Rahystrada for his record-setting run. He has shown that heart throughout his seven-year career, which has included three starts in the Arlington Million, where he finished fourth in 2010, fifth in 2011, and third in 2012. Can we expect to see the old man back for an unprecedented fourth try at the Million? That's up to Rahystrada.
"He keeps telling us he wants to go, so we go," said trainer Scooter Hughes. Assuming Rahystrada wants to go, nothing will be stopping him. His entry and start fees are waived for the Grade I, 10 furlong signature set to be run on August 17.
Rahystrada settled in third between rivals and attended fractions of 24.56, 24.91, 24.39, 24.58 set by Beer Garden through the opening mile. He shifted out in the upper stretch as Beer Garden packed it in and Rahystrada led for the final quarter which went in 23.22 seconds, allowing him to hold off late-coming longshot Temeraine. The 5/2 morning line favorite went off at odds of 3.4/1, as Dullahan and Coalpoart both took money. Rahystrada paid his backers $8.80 on a $2 win bet.
As for Rahystrada, he added $117,600 to his career earnings total, which now stands at $1,371,750. The well-managed gelding now has 14 wins, 5 seconds, and 8 thirds from 44 lifetime starts. This was his first win of 2013. Besides the Arlington Handicap and a multitude of allowance and claiming races, Rahystrada has also won the Grade 3 River City Handicap, the Colonial Turf Cup Stakes, and the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes. Can the millionaire finally become a Million winner? The answer is only five weeks away.