Well Armed makes his first start since his record 14-length romp in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) when he takes on eight rivals in the $250,000 San Diego Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar Aug. 2.
The Eoin Harty-trained son of Tiznow will carry high weight of 123 pounds, including regular rider Aaron Gryder, in defense of his 2008 victory in the 1 1/16-mile San Diego. Well Armed would go on to finish second by a neck to Go Between in the 2008 Pacific Classic (gr. I).
Well Armed will give his San Diego rivals between seven and 15 pounds in his first appearance since his runaway win in the March 28 World Cup at Nad al Sheba, a victory that was worth $3.6 million to owner/breeder WinStar Farm.
The San Diego field includes one filly, Allicansayiswow, who gets in with 108 pounds. One filly who wasn't entered is grade I winner Life Is Sweet. The third-place finisher in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) three weeks ago was held out by trainer John Shirreffs and owner Marty Wygod. Wygod pulled the homebred from consideration because he felt she wasn’t handling Del Mar’s Polytrack surface satisfactorily.
Among those who will be in the field are Informed, winner of the Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood Park this spring, 2008 Hollywood Gold Cup winner Mast Track, and Sunland Derby victor Kelly Leak.
But most of the attention is focused on Well Armed, who Harty pronounced "ready to run" after the 6-year-old gelding worked five furlongs in a minute flat on the morning of July 29 with Gryder aboard.
Earlier in the week, Harty said he was not concerned about the so-called "Dubai bounce" affecting his charge.
“Many times, the horses coming back have been sort of near the end of their careers and didn’t do much afterward," he said. "But Well Armed went (to the World Cup) a year ago (finishing third) and came back and won the San Diego Handicap here and finished second in the Pacific Classic.
“Curlin won last year and came back to win the Stephen Foster (gr. I at Churchill Downs) and become Horse of the Year for a second time,” Harty said. “Silver Charm came back and won the Stephen Foster, too, and Street Cry won in Dubai a few years ago and came back and also won the Stephen Foster. So you can’t let some of those other things tarnish the experience by saying that horses don’t do well after running there.”
Harty was with 1998 Dubai winner Silver Charm while serving as assistant to Bob Baffert and he trained Street Cry as a juvenile as a private trainer for Sheikh Mohammed. And he has been through it once before with Well Armed.
The Pacific Classic is Well Armed's goal once again this year. "We don't think he's lost a step," Harty said.
Following the World Cup, Well Armed came back to Harty’s barn at Santa Anita and then was shipped to WinStar Farm in Kentucky for a short breather.
“He was at the farm for about three weeks where he could graze on the grass, relax a bit and be a horse,” the trainer said. “He enjoyed himself and then he came back to the barn to get ready for the San Diego.”
Trainer Doug O'Neill hopes 5-year-old Informed will regain the form he showed in winning the Californian by three-quarters of a length over Rail Trip, who would go on to easily win the Gold Cup. Others in the San Diego field coming out of the Gold Cup are Mast Track (fourth), Magnum (seventh) and Song of Navarone (11th).
After chasing Zenyatta twice, trainer Patrick Biancone decided to give Allicansayiswow a shot against males. The 4-year-old filly tuned up for the San Diego with a second-level allowance win on the Hollywood turf July 11.
The 3-year-old Kelly Leak is also coming off a lengthy layoff since his March 29 win in the Sunland Derby. Earlier in the week, trainer Michael Machowsky was concerned because jockey Mike Smith would not be able to ride at the 112-pound weight assignment, but he entered the son of Runaway Groom anyway. Kelly Leak turned in a bullet 1:24 1/5 work for seven furlongs July 27.
Darley Stable's Sangaree , from the Baffert barn, and Temple City , trained by Carla Gaines for B. Wayne Hughes, are two improving colts making their stakes debut in the San Diego. Both are coming off second-level allowance wins.
$250,000 San Diego Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 5:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/16 MIles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Song of Navarone (KY), J Rosario, 116, W Solis
2. Informed (KY), T Baze, 116, D F O'Neill
3. Allicansayis Wow (KY), J Talamo, 108, P L Biancone
4. Magnum (ARG), M A Pedroza, 114, D Vienna
5. Mast Track (KY), D R Flores, 114, R J Frankel
6. Well Armed (KY), A T Gryder, 123, E G Harty
7. Temple City (KY), M C Baze, 113, C Gaines
8. Kelly Leak (FL), M E Smith, 112, M Machowsky
9. Sangaree (KY), V Espinoza, 114, B Baffert