Four grade or group I winner are among the compact field of seven set to contest the $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT), the first graded stakes on the Del Mar summer program July 24.
The 1 1/8-mile turf event includes Victor's Cry and Acclamation, who tallied their first grade I triumphs at the just-concluded Hollywood Park meeting, come-backing The Usual Q. T., and British invader Crowded House, who will be racing on his third continent this year. The classy Loup Breton, Hyades, and Enriched make this an extremely competitive field. The Eddie Read is the eighth race on the program with apost time of 5:30 p.m. PDT.
Pace figures to play a big part in the outcome, and with Acclamation and Enriched in the lineup, there should be enough speed to allow Victor's Cry to uncoil his big late run. Victor's Cry came from far back to register a head victory in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) in his last start May 31 at odds of 21-1.
"I was surprised he won a group I race, but I've always felt this horse had a ton of potential," Ireland-born trainer Eoin Harty said. "He always trains like a good horse. He's by Street Cry and basically everything he sires is golden.
"And I always felt he had a good one in him, but the fact he actually won a group I race was just a cherry on top of the cake. But he isn't done -- he's done equally as well if not better since that race. And I'm really optimistic going into Saturday's event."
Equilete Stable's Victor's Cry is unproven at nine furlongs and Harty said he would prefer to return his charge to the one-mile distance for the immediate future.
Jockey Corey Nakatani, whom Harty convinced to return to Southern California to ride in the Shoemaker, has moved his tack full time back to Southern California and has the ride on Victor's Cry, a five-time winner of $350,633 in a 17-race career. The 5-year-old has won two of four starts at Del Mar.
The Usual Q. T., who won the Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT), Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) and Sir Beaufort Stakes (gr. IIIT) in succession as part of a six-race winning streak last year, appears to be rounding back into top form for trainer James Cassidy. He is the likely favorite. The 4-year-old son of Unusual Heat is coming off a one-mile allowance win at Hollywood, his first start since running fourth in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) at Meydan Racecourse on World Cup night March 27.
"The horse is doing very well and continues to be very consistent," Cassidy said. "I expect him to be off the pace and come running at the end, which is his style. I think there'll be plenty of speed in the race to set that up."
Owned by Don Van Racing and partners, The Usual Q. T. will be ridden by regular jockey Victor Espinoza. The gelding broke his maiden last August at Del Mar. His record shows seven wins and four seconds in 14 career starts and a field-leading $813,320 in earnings.
E.W. and Judy Johnston's Acclamation won the Jim Murray (gr. IIT) and Charles Whittingham Memorial (gr. IT) handicaps in front-running style this spring, but encountered problems in the July 3 United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park in his most recent start.
Another 4-year-old son of Unusual Heat, Acclamation never made the lead in the 11-furlong U.N. after bumping at the start, and ended up fading to finish last of nine. Christian Santiago Reyes retains the mount.
Acclamation, The Usual Q. T., and Victor's Cry all carry the top weight of 123 pounds.
Grade II winner Loup Breton disappointed with his fourth-place showing as the favorite in the 10-furlong Whittingham, beaten by 2 3/4 lengths, but the Wildenstein Stable-owned 6-year-old is second in the field in earnings with $745,712.
The Irish-bred son of Anabaa won the San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita this winter and boasts two victories, a second, and a third in six starts for trainer Julio Canani since transferring from France one year ago. He ran third in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) Derby Day at Churchill Downs on a yielding course.
Crowded House, owned by Paul Reddam, makes his United States debut on a quick turnaround from a fading seventh-place finish in the Princess of Wales Stakes (Eng-II) at Newmarket July 8.
Ninth in the Dubai World Cup, he makes his final start for England-based trainer Brian Meehan here and is reportedly joining Ben Cecil's barn after that. Crowded House, with earnings of $715,400, will be ridden by Tyler Baze. He won the Racing Post Trophy (Eng-I) as a 2-year-old at Doncaster in October 2008.
Enriched, the 5-year-old half-brother to the retired multiple grade I winner and 2006 Pacific Classic (gr. I) victor Lava Man, will be ridden by defending Del Mar riding champion Joel Rosario for trainer Doug O'Neill. Enriched is coming off a 9 1/4-length victory over allowance rivals on the Hollywood turf May 22.
Hyades, trained by Cecil, rounds out the field with Martin Garcia in the irons. Hyades has been no worse than fourth in six starts since coming to Cecil from England, including a solid third, beaten a half-length in Hollywood's American Handicap (gr. IIT) July 4.
$300,000 Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT, Race 8, 5:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Crowded House (GB), T Baze, 119, B Meehan
2. Victor's Cry (VA), C S Nakatani, 123, E G Harty
3. The Usual Q. T. (CA), V Espinoza, 123, J M Cassidy
4. Acclamation (CA), C Santiago Reyes, 123, D Warren
5. Loup Breton (IRE), R Bejarano, 121, J C Canani
6. Enriched (CA), J Rosario, 119, D F O'Neill
7. Hyades (KY), M Garcia, 119, B D Cecil