• Promising Juvenile Debuts for Hansen
Arlington International Racecourse’s Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes, a race won three of the last five years by European shippers, got a domestic boost when trainer Gary Contessa announced that his $500,000 Penn Mile victor Rydilluc will be aimed toward the race many consider the premier American turf race for 3-year-olds.
Undefeated in four starts on turf, Rydilluc defeated a solid field that included Noble Tune, second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, turf stakes-winning and respectable Kentucky Derby also-ran Charming Kitten and the highly regarded Keeneland turf stakes winner Jack Milton. Owned by Team Stallion Racing Stable et al, Rydilluc previously finished a close fourth in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes (beaten less than two lengths) and was being pointed toward the Kentucky Derby before a minor injury stunted those plans.
“He just stamped himself as arguably the best 3-year-old turf horse right now, and we’re going to stay there,” stated trainer Gary Contessa. The New York-based trainer has been bullish in his belief that the son of Travers Stakes winner Medaglia d’Oro was special since the colt took Gulfstream Park’s Grade III Palm Beach Stakes in March.
“I’d say next stop Virginia Derby and then on to the Secretariat and then let’s try to win a race with him at Saratoga, as well,” the ambitious conditioner continued. The nearly black colt should, at least from a pedigree perspective, appreciate the additional two furlongs of the Secretariat’s distance. His sire Medaglia d’Oro, a son of Irish Champion 2-Year-Old El Prado, not only claimed the 10-furlong Travers Stakes, but also finished second in the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes.
Rydilluc’s dam, Swift and Classy, is by speed influence Clever Trick out of a Quack mare. Quack was a huge deep-closing colt with immense stamina (thanks to damsire Princequillo – the same damsire of Secretariat) who not only won the 10-furlong Hollywood Gold Cup Invitational Handicap, but did so as a 3-year-old and in world record time (1:59 2/5).
Given the fact that Rydilluc has proven he can rate or go to the lead with the same degree of repose at the whim of regular rider Edgar Prado, he would be a formidable foe for any European or American entrant if given the chance to compete August 17.
PROMISING JUVENILE DEBUTS FOR HANSEN
Only a few 2-year-old races have happened so far in the 2013 Arlington International meet, but already one colt has established himself as one to watch. Ghostly Wonder, a flashy gray owned by Ted and Jean Barlas and Diana Jacobs, coasted home to victory in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight by nearly five lengths at the longest odds on the board – 12-1.
Trained by Arlington-based Andy Hansen, Ghostly Wonder is a son of the highly strung Pulpit stallion Corinthian, but did not inherit said stallion’s disposition. “He’s actually a really laid back type. I mean, he’s a typical colt, but he’s not mean about it. He’s just ornery enough to make you like him,” Hansen said with a smile.
Corinthian is the only horse to win both of American’s premier dirt mile races, the Metropolitan Mile Handicap and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – the latter with a whopping 119 Beyer Speed Figure. One of the best-bred stallions on the market, Corinthian is a son of Pulpit (sire of phenomenal stallions Tapit and Sky Mesa) out of a broodmare by arguably the most talented 2-year-old of the last quarter-century, Easy Goer (who himself earned an unworldly 116 Beyer as a juvenile), out of a Spectacular Bid-sired three-quarter sister to Nureyev.
The gospel still has yet to be written on whether Corinthian will become a super-sire, but he is off to a respectable start after finishing eighth in his sophomore stallion class in 2012 with 57 winners, five of them stakes. The depth of Ghostly Wonder’s pedigree actually lies in his female side, which is lush with Verne Winchell bloodstock and juvenile speed up to and over a mile.
Ghostly Wonder’s dam is a three-quarter sister to Call Now, a blazingly fast juvenile who bashed heads with Serena’s Song in the fall of 1994, including a victory in the Grade II Del Mar Debutante in a 1:21.40 blitz for seven furlongs (still a stakes record). Call Now would also go on to give Serena’s Song all she could handle in the subsequent Oak Leaf Stakes, finishing second behind the eventual Hall of Famer.
Call Now is also a half-sister to Olympio, a talented winner of nearly every ‘Derby’ that is not in Kentucky, including the then Grade II American Derby here at Arlington (he also won the Arkansas, Minnesota and Hollywood Derbies). Additionally, the colt finished a solid fourth in the 1991 Preakness Stakes. As far as his prowess as a juvenile, Olympio won the Grade III Hollywood Prevue for the same connections as Call Now – owner Verne Winchell and trainer Ron McAnally.
With all this pedigree, Ghostly Wonder was still a bargain at auction. “We paid $33,000. I think his sire’s average is about $70-75,000,” reported Hansen. Despite the modest price tag, the colt ran with a style quite similar to his female lineage – to the front with an intensely high cruising rate that ends up in the winner’s circle. His stride noticeably opened up under jockey Florent Geroux, as he impressively (and under very little urging) finished his final sixteenth in :06.12.
“I think he’ll stretch out – he has a nice big stride and relaxes great,” continued Hansen. “Right now we’re possibly looking at something at Prairie Meadows in late July,” referring to the Listed $75,000 Prairie Meadows Juvenile at 5 ½-furlongs on Saturday July 20. “Of course, our long-term goal is the (Grade III $150,000 Arlington-Washington) Futurity, here. We don’t want to beat him up before then,” explained the trainer.
It is worth noting that the colt, though it is very early in the year, earned a 78 Beyer Speed Figure – the highest of any juvenile so far in 2013 – and did so in a facile way from the unenviable rail post. This rating is even more impressive considering the numerous juvenile races already being contested at such quality venues as Churchill Downs, Hollywood Park and Belmont Park. With such visual and numeric evidence to this colt’s promise, it will be a wonder if he is once again given a ghost of a chance.