Prestonwood Farm's Special Ring clipped a remarkable four-fifths of a second off the 1 1/8-mile turf track record while going gate to wire Sunday in Del Mar's $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT).
Ridden by David Flores, Special Ring, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Nureyev, collected his first graded stakes win and his first victory at the nine-furlong distance. The Julio Canani-trained bay stopped the clock in 1:45.87, breaking the record set by Al Mamoon of 1:46.60 in 1986.
He ran his final furlong in an amazing :11 2/5 to ensure a five-length triumph over Decarchy, with Irish Warrior a neck farther back in third.
"I was just hoping he'd break good," Flores said. "I knew if he did, it would be all over. He won this so easy. I never hit him. It was like he rebroke at the eighth pole. Oh, yeah, he's a runner."
Eight-year-old Redattore, who won the Read in 2001 and was third last year, finished last in the field of six, although only a half-length separated the final five finishers. Redattore, ridden by Alex Solis, was favored at 6-5.
A recognized miler, Special Ring already held that turf mark at Del Mar, 1:32.75 set in August.
Canani said Special Ring will be pointed to the Oak Tree meeting.
"This horse was a nightmare for me until after I gelded him (two years ago)," Canani noted. "Even then it was a long time before he acted like a gelding. He still had a lot of fire in him. Mr. (Jack) Preston has a lot of patience and I told him I couldn't run this horse. He never pressed me or never pushed me.
"(Special Ring) has got so much ability. You don't know how much ability he has. When he won the Wickerr (establishing a course record) here last year, I was so happy because I thought he was finally getting himself together. I wasn't going to run him here, but he came back so strong from his last race (July 4 American Handicap at Hollywood Park) that I had to do it."
Flores took Special Ring directly to the front while establishing a length to 1 1/2-length advantage over Mister Acpen and Redattore, who tracked through splits of :23 4/5, :47 2/5, 1:11 and 1:34 2/5. As all five challengers moved into position for their run at Special Ring on the final turn, he responded to rousing from Flores to pull away under a brisk hand ride.
Decarchy, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, rated behind the leaders at the rail and swung three ride in the stretch to gamely get second. Irish Warrior and Julie Krone came on well in the stretch after hanging back early. Fateful Dream was a close fourth, followed by Mister Acpen and Redattore.
"He gave me everything he had," Desormeaux said, "His blood and all. What are you going to do when the winner freaks like that. He breaks the track record by a second or something. What are you going to do?"
Solis had no excuse for Redattore.
"He was just a little flat today. Nobody was going to beat the winner. He was gone. The rest of us all finished right together."
Special Ring was making his third start since returning to action following a leg fracture sustained prior to the Breeders' Cup Mile last year. He began his comeback in May at Hollywood Park. Prior to that, he had been away from the races since Aug. 2, when he set the one-mile grass mark in the Wickerr.
He was second to Redattore in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) on May 26 in his initial race back. He followed that with a second to Candy Ride in the 1 1/8-mile American Handicap (gr. IIT) on July 4 at Hollywood. Special Ring won for the sixth time in 15 starts in the United States since transferring here from France in May 2001.
The winner's share, $240,000, runs his career bankroll to $657,021 on eight victories in 23 starts.
The second choice at 3-1, Special Ring paid $8.20, $4.40 and $4. Decarchy returned $4.80 and $4.40. Irish Warrior showed for $3.80. The $2 exacta was worth $47.80.
In the day's supporting feature, the $100,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for California-bred three-year-old fillies, Gary Stevens guided Tucked Away to a $26.80 surprise. The Unusual Heat filly, owned by Ken V. Porter and conditioned by Paddy Gallagher, ran seven furlongs in 1:23 1/5 in defeating Summer Wind Dancer by a length, with Abby's Not Normal third.