PENN MILE SETS STAGE FOR $500,000 VIRGINIA DERBY GR.2

RYDILLUC (Courtesy of Kenny Martin/Gulfstream Park)

RYDILLUC (Courtesy of Kenny Martin/Gulfstream Park)

(CLN & GP)  It’s not every year that the road to the Virginia’s biggest race leads through Grantsville, Pennsylvania and Penn National, but this year is clearly does as the top three finishers in the recent $500,000 Penn Mile square off with seven others in the latest renewal of the Virginia Derby.

According to CLN, Penn Mile winner Rydilluc was named 9/5 early favorite at Wednesday’s post position draw luncheon held at Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Richmond. Jockey Edgar Prado, who has guided the three-year-old Medaglia d’Oro colt to a perfect four-for-four record on turf, will be in the irons again on Saturday. Prado won three consecutive Virginia Derbies from 2002-2004.

Rydilluc captured the one mile turf stakes at Penn National by three-quarters of a length, and stretches out to 10 furlongs  in Virginia. Trainer Gary Contessa’s charge also scored in the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes Gr.3  in March at Gulfstream Park.

Respective Penn Mile second and third place finishers Charming Kitten and Jack Milton have that same morning line distinction Saturday at 7-2 and 4-1. The duo, both trained by Todd Pletcher, crossed the Penn Mile finish line noses apart some six weeks ago.

Exercise rider Nick Bush CHARMING KITTEN at Churchill Downs Monday, April 29, 2013, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Exercise rider Nick Bush CHARMING KITTEN at Churchill Downs Monday, April 29, 2013, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Charming Kitten, who finished ninth in May’s Kentucky Derby Gr.1, has a trio of top three finishes in graded stakes. The Kitten’s Joy colt took a tight third in the Bluegrass Stakes Gr.1 in April, was runner up to Rydilluc in the Palm Beach Stakes and earned a third last summer in the With Anticipation Stakes Gr.2 at Saratoga.  Jack Milton captured the $100,000 Transylvania Stakes Gr.2 at Keeneland this past April and has top-three finishes in all four of his turf starts.

Ken McPeek’s War Dancer is 6-1 and is fresh off a place finish in the $200,000 Centaur Stakes at Indiana Downs. In his second most recent out, The War Front colt finished  third in the $200,000 American Turf Gr.2 at Churchill Downs. Alan Garcia has the mount .

Redwood Kitten, one of three Derby entrants bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, finished third in the $100,000 Transylvania Stakes Gr.3 and then won the $100,000 James Murphy Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico.

JACK MILTON (inside) and REDWOOD KITTEN in the Transylvania Stakes Gr.3 (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

JACK MILTON (inside) and REDWOOD KITTEN in the Transylvania Stakes Gr.3 (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Michelle Nihei’s Draw Two comes to Virginia with back to back wins in respective allowance and maiden special weight wins seven months apart.

Mike Maker’s Fear The Kitten is 0-for-6 this year and has yet to make a start on grass. Horacio Karamanos, Colonial’s leading all time jockey, is up top. Karamanos scored an upset in the 2007 Derby aboard Red Giant at 37-1 and three weeks ago, directed London Lane to a 50-1 upset win in the Colonial Turf Cup Gr.3.

Rounding out the field is Gefest, whose only turf start in ten life outs was a fourth in the Arlington Classic GR.3,  Readyshakego, who scored in a Colonial Downs’ turf allowance opening day, and frequently raced Bethel, who makes his 14th start of 2013.

The first race on Saturday is scheduled for 5:00 PM. The Derby has been carded as the seventh, and will go off at 8:12 PM. There is an All Stakes Pick-5 wager available that covers races 3 thru 7 and includes the $150,000 Virginia Oaks Gr.3 and a trio of $75,000 stakes – the Kitten’s Joy, Tippett and Chenery – in addition to the Derby.

All races will be broadcast live on HRTV and streamed at www.drf.com.

To see all of Saturday’s entries for Colonial Downs, click here.

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