Rydilluc easily won the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) for his third straight win. (Photo courtesy Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin)
By Jack Shinar, Blood-Horse
Watching his Rydilluc dominate a group of 3-year-old turf runners in his stakes debut in the $150,000 Palm Beach (gr. IIIT) March 3 at Gulfstream Park, trainer Gary Contessa may have come to a conclusion.
"You see what he looks like turning for home with the stride he's got," said Contessa after Rydilluc's 3 1/2-length victory in the nine-furlong Palm Beach. "He's an amazing horse. I think we have to go to the Spiral (gr. III) or Blue Grass (gr. I) and take a shot. He's nominated for the Spiral and he's nominated for the Blue Grass and I've seen a lot of horses that did this—turf to Poly—and showed up in the (Kentucky) Derby."
Contessa will have some time to make a final decision. The $550,000 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes is March 23 at Turfway Park. The Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland is April 13.
The winning Medaglia d'Oro colt out of the Clever Trick mare Swift and Classy is owned by a large group of partners. Bred in Kentucky by Hill 'n' Dale Holdings and Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds, the bay colt was purchased for $150,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Eastern May 2-year-old sales at Timonium last year.
Facing 10 opponents in the Palm Beach, Rydilluc, the 2-1 second choice, always looked like a winner with Edgar Prado aboard. He stalked pacesetter 48-1 Dad'z Laugh aggressively for a half-mile in second before taking over on the far turn and inching clear early in the stretch. He continued to lead the way comfortably while ridden out after opening up a 2 1/2-length advantage at the furlong marker.
With the temporary rail set at 72 feet, the final time was 1:48.18 over a firm turf course, following quarter mile splits of :24.91, :49.59, 1:13.72, and 1:36.78. Rydilluc came home the final eighth in 11.4 seconds without urging from Prado.
"At the top of the stretch and he kicks in like that and draws off, my heart is in my throat," Contessa remarked. "That's what keeps us getting up in the morning, a horse like this. It's going to be fun getting to the bottom of it and find out exactly what he is."
Charming Kitten, the 17-10 favorite, was no match for the winner this time while driving four wide through the lane under John Velazquez to get up for second by a neck over Reporting Star and Eduarado Nunez.
Rydilluc, who began his career with a poor effort on dirt at Belmont Park last October, rang up his third straight win on grass since, with a combined margin of nearly 14 lengths. In his most recent start, Rydilluc beat a first-level allowance field with an optional claiming tag of $75,000 going one mile by 5 3/4 lengths Jan. 5 at Gulfstream.
"As good as he runs on turf he runs on dirt," Contessa said. "I just got to toss that first race (on dirt). I don't know if you saw him in the paddock, but he's a handful. Maybe he just blew his race that day and just wasn't mentally prepared."
Prado added, "The way he ran last time was very impressive and I was very happy how he ran and came out of the race. He has been working great. Charming Kitten is a nice horse, but today was Rydilluc's day and he passed the test. He came back fresh and happy, he's such a nice horse."
Todd Pletcher, who trains the runner-up for owner/breeder Ken and Sarah Ramsey, had to agree with Prado's assessment.
"I think we were just second best today," he said. "The winner was very good and we got the trip we anticipated. I thought our horse ran very well, we just couldn't get to him."
In running his record to three wins from four tries with earnings of $158,490, Rydilluc paid $6.20, $3.60, and $2.80. Charming Kitten, who spotted the winner four pounds while toting top weight of 120, returned $2.80 and $.260. The chalky exacta was worth $18.20. Reporting Star paid $5.60.
Quinzieme Monarque was fourth, followed by Dewey Square, who was forced to steady on the far turn and weakened. Then came Amen Kitten, Dad'zLaugh, Holiday Star, Saturday Special, Summit County, and Squall King.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
RYDILLUC AND EDGAR PRADO JOG BACK AFTER THE WIN
Photo courtesy Coglianese Photos/Courtney Heeney