Rydilluc Rolls onto Road to Derby in Palm Beach
Trainer Gary Contessa stood in the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle Sunday, marveling at what he had just witnessed and wondering what the future will bring for Rydilluc, a dazzling winner of the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (G3).
“You see what he looks like turning for home with the stride he’s got. He’s an amazing horse. I think we have to go to the Spiral (at Turfway Park on March 23) or Blue Grass (at Keeneland on April 13) and take a shot,” said Contessa, referencing a pair of key Kentucky Derby prep races. “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 Derby. So we’re not ruling it out.”
Anyone who observed Rydilluc’s 3 ½-length romp in his stakes debut could not blame Contessa for being afflicted with Derby Fever. The 3-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro utterly toyed with his 10 rivals in the 1 1/-8-mile turf stakes under a hand ride by jockey Edgar Prado.
Away from the starting gate alertly, Rydilluc assumed a stalking position just off the pacesetting Dad’z Laugh around the first turn and along the backstretch during a first half-mile in a pedestrian 49.59 seconds. The 2-1 second betting choice edged to the front on the far turn without any encouragement from Prado before sprinting away from his rivals in the stretch run without the need of strong handling. Charming Kitten, the 8-5 favorite ridden by John Velazquez, closed well to finish second, a neck ahead of Reporting Star, who had a stalking trip under jockey Eduardo Nunez. Dewey Square, a Dale Romans-trained colt who was making his turf debut, finished fifth after experiencing a rough trip in traffic.
Rydilluc, who had captured an entry-level allowance by nearly six lengths at Gulfstream on Jan. 5, captured his third straight victory by open lengths with a clocking of 1:48.18, including a final three-eighths of a mile in a sharp 34.46 seconds.
"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,” said Prado, who rode Kitten’s Point to victory in Saturday’s Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3). “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."
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who had saddled Charming Kitten for a victory in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 20, expressed satisfaction with his colt’s effort.
“I was concerned with Rydilluc because he’s been impressive and we were thinking he was the horse to beat,” Pletcher said. “We couldn’t quite run him down, but I thought he ran well.”
Following his success in his graded-stakes debut, no one could doubt that Rydilluc is an abundantly talented prospect, but his ability to run on dirt is still open to question. Before his three turf romps, he debuted on dirt at Belmont Park on Oct. 13 with a distant fifth-place finish in which he was never a factor.
“As good as he runs on turf he trains on dirt. I just got to toss that first race. 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,” Contessa said.
While it remains to be seen if Rydilluc can succeed on dirt, Contessa is looking forward to a bright future for his colt.
“At the top of the stretch when he kicks in like that and draws off, my heart is in my throat. That’s what keeps us getting up in the morning – a horse like this,” he said. “It’s going to be fun getting to the bottom of it and find out exactly what he is.”