Rahystrada shook free from a pack of horses at the top of the stretch by going inside, found daylight there and stormed home to a 1 ½ length win in the 7th running of the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs Saturday night.
Rahystrada became the first older horse to win the 1 3/16ths miles Turf Cup. The first six “Cup” stakes were exclusively for three year olds, but this year’s condition allowed for three and up. As a result, the stakes race lost its graded status, but that didn’t deter jockey Sheldon Russell and the winning connections from enjoying the moment.
“It’s the biggest win of my life,” exclaimed Russell. “When I met with the trainer and owner before the race and asked their advice, they said to just trust the horse, and that the horse will know when it’s time. I had good position in the first turn, caught some traffic in the second turn, and when a hole opened up coming out of the turn, I just went for it.”
Russell had a trio of other reasons to smile. He scored earlier in the card with wins aboard Alta Boy, Go Kid Go and Sondheim.
Guys Reward was the pace setter through the three-quarters mark of the Turf Cup before faultering in the stretch. The 4 year old Grand Reward colt ran outside of Smart Bid nearly all that time as they dueled for the lead. Rahystrada was sixth through the half and fifth before he made his move.
The 7 year old Rahy gelding won for the first time in eleven months and earned his eleventh lifetime triumph. Rahystrada was coming off a pair of impressive outs though at Churchill Downs and Tampa, and rose to the occasion over the Secretariat Turf Course.
“He really started firing at age five,” said trainer Byron “Scooter” Hughes. “And he’s gotten better every year. He’s an easy shipper and I thought he’d do well at this track.”
“I’m good friends with Mike Matz,” said Rahystrada’s owner Robert Courtney,” So I asked him who he’d recommend to ride my horse. Michael said Sheldon Russell was a top notch rider and I’d say it was pretty good advice.”
The winner covered the race in 1:54.68 and paid $9.80 to win. Smart Bid took second and Dark Cove was third.
In the $100,000 Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes (Gr. III), heavily favored Aruna won the fourth time in her last five races for trainer Graham Motion. The 4 year old Mr. Greeley filly took over from frontrunning Baltimore Belle at the top of the stretch and went on to win by 1 ½ lengths.