A little more speed in the lineup and a turf course that's not quite so conducive to front-runners would help trainer John Sadler feel better about the chances of Whatsthescript in the $350,000 Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) at July 25, the highlight on the opening weekend of action at Del Mar.
Tommy Town Thoroughbreds' Whatsthescript was sent off as the 6-5 choice in the American Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park July 4. But he was unable to make any sort of impact on the eventual winner, Monterey Jazz, who got away with a six-length lead and never looked back in an easy win for trainer Craig Dollase. Whatsthescript ran on for third in the American, which was contested at 1 1/8 miles, the same as the Eddie Read,
"You've got to give kudos to Monterey Jazz, who (was) just a monster at Hollywood this summer," Sadler said. "I don't know if anybody would have beat him.
"(Monterey Jazz) set a track record winning an allowance race (at one mile) and then in the American, the other speed horse basically took back off him. And if you watched the Hollywood turf this summer, speed was better than ever. He was just kind of gifted on the lead and he was gone. I mean part of it is (Monterey Jazz) was very, very good and my horse didn't have a great trip in the first turn. I thought he should have been second. But he wasn't going to beat Monterey Jazz."
Sadler was happy to see Thorn Song returned to Southern California, where the 6-year-old won the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) in front-running fashion at Hollywood May 25. Thorn Song turned in a fading fourth-place finish in Churchill Downs' Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) on a yielding course July 4.
"I'm glad to have Thorn Song back because you know we'd rather have some speed than no speed," Sadler said. "So I'm hoping that somebody will run with (Monterey Jazz)."
Perhaps more importantly, as far as Sadler is concerned, Whatsthescript has proven his fondness for Del Mar. He ran second in the Eddie Read last year, finishing a half-length behind Monzante, then won the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) as the favorite one month later. He has lost four races in a row since, a streak that began with a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) last fall.
"He's shown himself to be very good on this course," Sadler said of the 5-year-old Irish-bred son of Royal Applause. "And I'm hoping my horse will like this course a little bit better than he did Hollywood this summer."
Whatsthescript will start from the far outside post in the eight-horse field with Joel Rosario, fresh off his first riding title at Hollywood, aboard. The bay horse will carry 119 pounds, four fewer than the co-high weights, Thorn Song and Monterey Jazz. Whatsthescript has won six of 16 lifetime starts with earnings of $847,964.
The free-running Monterey Jazz won the American Handicap by 3 1/4 lengths over Artiste Royal, who is also part of the Eddie Read field. Like Whatsthescript, the 5-year-old son of Thunderello is seeking his first grade I win. Owned by A & R Stables and Class Racing Stables, Monterey Jazz won the Strub Stakes (gr. II) on Santa Anita's synthetic track in 2008. Tyler Baze retains the mount on the sizzling dark bay, who will be gunning from the rail.
Monterey Jazz has won eight of 19 lifetime starts and earned $670,880, but is winless in four starts at Del Mar. He was something of a surprise entrant for Dollase, who also has Awesome Gem in the field.
“(Monterey Jazz) came out of his last race in great shape and his workout at Hollywood Park in 58 (seconds) breezing told me he was ready,” Dollase said.
Thorn Song, a 6-year-old Unbridled Song's horse owned by Zayat Stables, makes his Del Mar debut. Previously from the barn of Dale Romans, he is now in the Mike Mitchell stable.
The gray/roan horse defeated Hyperbaric by a head in a gallant front-running effort in the Shoemaker. Thorn Song, who has earned $1,132,700 in his career, won the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland last fall prior to a ninth-place finish in the Breeder's Cup Mile.
Grade I winner Artiste Royal and millionaire Awesome Gem are two others who will benefit from a decent pace battle.
Artiste Royal is sitting within a high finish of the million-mark in earnings. The Irish-bred son of champion stallion Danehill has seven lifetime victories and $961,790 in earnings for owners David and Jill Heerensperger. Trainer Neil Drysdale will be shooting for his fourth Eddie Read with Artiste Royal, having won earlier with Deputy Governor (1988), Sarafan (2002) and Aragorn (2006).
Awesome Gem snapped a long losing streak when Dollase switched him back to the turf to beat a conditional allowance field June 27 at Hollywood.
Not to be ignored are Global Hunter, who was a close second in the 2008 Del Mar Mile behind Whatsthescript; and Dakota Phone, who was third in both the Mervyn LeRoy (gr. II) and Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood Park. Global Hunter and Dakota Phone ran eighth and ninth, respectively, in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) July 11.
Rounding out the field is Richard’s Kid, five for 16 lifetime for owner Arnold Zetcher. Bob Baffert is the trainer.
Bobby Frankel holds the record for most wins in the Eddie Read with seven, beginning in 1977 with No Turning. The other Frankel winners were Wickerr (twice), Al Mamoon, Saratoga Passage, Marquetry and Expelled.
$350,000 Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT, Race 8, 5:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 MIles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Monterey Jazz (KY), T Baze, 123, C Dollase
2. Dakota Phone (KY), G K Gomez, 119, J Hollendorfer
3. Global Hunter (ARG), C S Nakatani, 119, A C Avila
4. Thorn Song (KY), M E Smith, 123, M R Mitchell
5. Awesome Gem (KY), A O Solis, 119, C Dollase
6. Artiste Royal (IRE), R Bejarano, 121, N D Drysdale
7. Richard's Kid (MD), V Espinoza, 119, B Baffert
8. Whatsthescript (IRE), J Rosario, 119, J W Sadler