Monzante took the overland route in coming from last to catch favored Whatsthescript in the final strides, winning the $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) (VIDEO) in eye-catching style by a half-length on the Del Mar turf course July 20.
Transferred to Mike Mitchell's stable last fall after beginning his career in Great Britain, Monzante gained his first-ever turf win for his American connections, including owners Scott Anastasi and Jay and Gretchen Manoogian. Mitchell said before the race that the muscular gray/roan gelding could prove to be his best hope in this year's Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) after an ankle injury put grade I winner Ever a Friend on the sidelines for the remainder of the year.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Monzante certainly looked the part in the Eddie Read. While showing no early speed, he was last of a fairly compact field of six virtually all the way around. A confident Bejarano angled Monzante extremely wide rounding the far turn and though moving well, Monzante remained last while closing on the extreme outside as the leaders left the furlong pole.
By that point, Whatsthescript, the 17-10 choice who enjoyed a ground-saving trip under Isaias Enriquez, had angled off the rail to edge past the pacesetting Storm Military. Whatsthescript looked like a sure winner approaching the wire, but Monzante showed how quickly things can change, flying through the lane under urging to get up with room to spare. The final time was 1:46.53 for the 1 1/8 miles over firm ground.
"I know what kind of kick this horse has, and I was ready with it," Bejarano said. "We went wide, but that was no problem. When you're on the best horse, you can do what you want to do."
Mitchell said he was not concerned about the late rally.
"I wanted all those horses in front of him," Mitchell said. "That's the way he likes to run. He has an unbelievable turn of foot. We're going to stay on the turf, and we'll probably run here or at Oak Tree. We're going to aim for the Breeders' Cup Mile."
Whatsthescript finished three-quarters of a length in front of a stubborn Storm Military, who carved a sensible pace for David Flores while maintaining a slight advantage over Lava Man on the front end. Quarter-mile fractions for the first six furlongs were :23.51, :48.21, and 1:11.70. Flores, asking for a response from Storm Military in upper stretch, finished off Lava Man, who faded quickly to finish last.
Storm Military was game, but he could not hold off the Irish-bred Whatsthescript, last month's American Handicap (gr. IIT) winner who appeared to have a dream run while coming up short.
"We got the jump we wanted, but he just didn't have any kick," Enriquez said of the favorite. "It's the distance. He's a miler."
With Southern California turf division leaders such as Daytona, Artiste Royal, Ever a Friend, and Out of Control sidelined or passing the race, this looked like a perfect spot for an up-and-coming horse to establish grade I credentials.
Monzante, coming off a second-place finish in the 1 1/4-mile Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park June 7, proved to be that horse. He missed by a neck in the Whittingham, his American turf debut, to Artiste Royal while nosing Lava Man for the runner-up spot.
In five prior races for Mitchell, all on synthetic tracks, the son of Maria's Mon had won twice, including a three-length victory in the Santana Mile Handicap at Santa Anita in March. Monzante had been winless in five previous starts on the grass, four of those coming in Britain, where he was stabled with Roger Charlton.
He improved his career mark to 4-2-3 in 13 starts with earnings of $449,570.
Bred by Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky, Monzante is out of the Danzig mare Danzante.
The morning line favorite, Monzante was sent off as the second choice and carried 114 pounds to victory. He paid $8, $3.40, and $2.60, topping a $2 exacta worth $22.80 with Whatsthescript, the John Sadler trainee who returned $3 and $2.60. The Argentina-bred Storm Military, still seeking his first graded stakes win for trainer Bobby Frankel, was $3.60 to show.
Spring House, making his first start since running 10th in the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) at Nad al Sheba March 29, was a neck back in fourth, followed by Irish first-timer Ferneley and Lava Man, who packed top weight of 120 pounds.
"I had a perfect trip," jockey Tyler Baze said of Lava Man. "They just might be a little too tough for him right now."