Arlington Million

Barn Notes: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 – 1st edition

Churchill Downs Communications | 08/14/2013 #
  • Rydilluc Credit B & D Photography

In Today’s Notes: Contessa Shares Firm Stance on Rydilluc’s Strengths

When it comes to picking spots for Rydilluc, trainer Gary Contessa handicaps the weather as much as the competition.

After passing on the off-the-turf Grade II Hall of Fame Stakes on Aug. 9 at Saratoga, Contessa rerouted Rydilluc to the Secretariat Stakes on Saturday at Arlington International Racecourse. He won’t run if the ground comes up wet, but WGN weather says low 80s and sunny for the International Festival of Racing that it will broadcast.

Rydilluc was undefeated on turf before fading to eighth as the 2.60-$1 favorite in the Grade II Virginia Derby on July 13 at Colonial Downs. Contessa blamed the wet ground for his performance that day and expects a return to his top turf form in the Secretariat.

“He looked fantastic working on Sunday [at Saratoga]; he worked his eyeballs out,” said Contessa, who trains for a partnership of Leonard Green, Harold Lerner, McConnell Racing Stables (Linda McConnell) and Sean Shay, et al

“He went his first three-eighths in :37.20 and five furlongs in :59.60. That last quarter-mile was :22.40 with [jockey Edgar] Prado just chirping to him. It was a great work, and we’re on goal.”

Contessa said he expects Gary Barber’s Jack Milton to be among the Secretariat favorites. Jack Milton finished ahead of Rydilluc when third in the Virginia Derby, but Rydilluc defeated Jack Milton in the $500,000 Penn Mile at Penn National.

Rydilluc will almost certainly be ahead of Jack Milton in the early stages of the race, and considering the other entrants he might be in front of everybody. Contessa said he doesn’t mind setting the pace as long as Prado waits as long as possible to ask for Rydilluc’s full run.

“The key to this horse is to wait as long as you can,” Contessa said. “Sit, sit, sit, sit, and make one run. You can sit on the lead – he’s versatile – but I don’t want him used up to have the lead. If there’s lots of speed then I’ll be happy to lay third, fourth, or fifth, but if there’s no speed then I’ll be happy to be on lead as long as we wait for his full run.”

Following the Secretariat, Rydilluc is likely to remain competing against fellow 3-year-olds until the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, and Contessa did not rule out a return to dirt sometime again in the colt’s career. Rydilluc debuted on the main track at Belmont Park and finished fifth, beaten 22 lengths. He also finished fourth, beaten just 1¾ lengths, in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on Polytrack at Keeneland.

“The deck stacked against us in Blue Grass,” Contessa said. “Edgar admittedly did not ride his greatest race. We moved too soon, and that was a poor decision, but I make them every day. You just have to learn from them, and we have. We know more what type of horse he is now.

“It worked out that we didn’t do better in the Blue Grass because we would have run in the [Kentucky] Derby, and we’d have been right there with Palace Malice and stopped right with him, too. If the opportunity comes up, though, he’ll get another chance on dirt.”

Rydilluc has won four of seven starts lifetime and has earned $476,990.