Favored Aragorn smashed the Del Mar course record for nine furlongs on the turf with a scintillating four-length score in the $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) Sunday under Corey Nakatani.
The Irish-bred son of Giant's Causeway
, trained by Neil Drysdale for owner/breeder Belinda and Roy Strudwick's Ballygallon Stud, stopped the clock in 1:44.79, taking more than a second off the Jimmy Durante Turf Course mark of 1:45.85 set last year by Willow O Wisp.
The 4-year-old colt's victory gave Nakatani a sweep of the grade I turf stakes over the weekend at the seaside track. He guided Dancing Edie to victory in the $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) for fillies and mares Saturday.
"It couldn't have played out any better," Nakatani said of the pace scenario.
Aragorn, 3-2 choice in the field of seven, made it back-to-back grade I victories on the turf for Drysdale after capturing the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park May 29. The winner of last fall's Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) has never been worse than second in six starts in California since being transferred from Great Britain last year.
Sweet Return, reunited with Alex Solis and looking for a repeat of his victory in last year's Eddie Read, sped away early along the inside, but unlike last year's race, they were unable to dictate a moderate pace. Silent Name, whose jockey Victor Espinoza lost his whip before they reached the clubhouse turn, was also on the muscle and he kept the pressure on Sweet Return through hot fractions of :23, :45 3/5 and 1:09 2/5. Aragorn was in a perfect stalking position in third, about five to six lengths behind the leaders, and wound up his charge while traveling three wide on the turn.
Even though Sweet Return and Silent Name had something left for the stretch drive, they had no chance of holding off Aragorn, who steamed past them on the outside in mid-stretch under right-handed urging from Nakatani.
Sweet Return edged Silent Name by a half-length for second, with Fourty Niners Son, also trained by Drysdale, finishing a nose behind in fourth. Fourty Niners Son was disqualified to fifth for brushing Quasimodo in the stretch drive. Quasimodo was awarded fourth.
Nakatani said the key to the race was for Espinoza and Silent Name to challenge the multiple grade I winner Sweet Return, who was ready for a top effort for trainer Ron McAnally.
"I couldn't do much about what was happening," Solis said of his trip aboard Sweet Return. "It's his style to run like that and I'd have to guess that (Silent Name) was a run-off. I got pressed and I just had to go on with it. All things considered, he ran really well."
Nakatani, who won the Eddie Read for the fourth time, said he is looking forward to the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs in November.
"No question, he's got the talent," Nakatani said. "I couldn't be sitting in a better spot."
Aragorn, who had never raced farther than seven furlongs in the United Kingdom, now has two victories in as many tries at nine furlongs. His overall record is 4-4-1 in 11 lifetime starts and earnings of $705,325.
Drysdale said Aragorn could next try stretching out to 10 furlongs in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) on Aug. 12 or stay at home for the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) on Aug. 26.
The winner paid $5, $3.20 and $2.60. Sweet Return, who has lost six in a row since taking the Eddie Read last year, returned $5.60 and $3.40. The Japanese-bred Silent Name, who was also third in the Shoemaker, was $3.40 to show.
Hendrix and Fast and Furious trailed.
In the co-feature, River's Prayer and jockey Clinton Potts won the $108,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies. She paid $12.80 to win after covering seven furlongs in 1:22.96.
Getback Time was second and 2-1 favored Quarterly Report third.
River's Prayer, a daughter of Devon Lane owned by Bearing Point Ventures and trainer Paula Capestro, provided newcomer Potts and Capestro with their first Del Mar triumphs. The filly earned $65,100 after her third win in seven starts.
The day's attendance totaled 17,325.