French invader Sofast adds a new face to the $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes, which attracted a familiar group of Southern California-based middle-distance turf runners to the first grade I event of the season July 20 at Del Mar.
The 1 1/8-mile event drew a field of 10, including multiple graded stakes winners Jeranimo and Slim Shadey. The race is the eighth on Del Mar's Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 5:40 p.m. PDT.
A homebred for Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Sofast was group I placed as a 2-year-old in October 2011, which followed a group III victory a month earlier. Though he has not won since, the son of Rock of Gibraltar has been close, for instance finishing third by a neck in the Prix du Muguet (Fr-II) May 1 at St. Cloud.
Trained in France by Freddy Head, Sofast finished last of seven in his most recent race, the Prix d'Ispahan (Fr-I) at Longchamp May 26. The chestnut colt holds a 2-2-2 lifetime mark in 11 starts, all in France, with earnings of $278,651.
"He arrived on Tuesday (July 16) and we're entering him right off the plane," trainer Gary Mandella said. "He has been competitive in France."
Jockey Julien Leparoux has the call on Sofast, who breaks from post 2.
Also shipping in for the Eddie Read is Keeneland-based Middie, a grade III winner that races for trainer Philip Oliver and owners G. Watt Humphrey Jr. and St. George Farm, which bred the 5-year-old Officer gelding.
Middie ran third, 6 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Wise Dan in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) on a yielding Churchill Downs turf course May 4. In his most recent start, he was distanced in the off-the-turf Opening Verse Stakes at Churchill when he failed to handle a sloppy main track.
Corey Nakatani has won the Eddie Read a record five times and has been named to ride Middie, who captured the Washington Park Handicap (gr. III) on the Arlington Park Polytrack Sept. 1.
The two most accomplished runners in the field, Jeranimo and Slim Shadey, have not been at their best lately.
Last year's Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) winner, Jeranimo, was seventh behind Middie in the Woodford Reserve in a rare appearance outside of Southern California for the 7-year-old son of Congaree . In his most recent start, Jeranimo failed to fire while settling for fourth in his June 29 defense of the Shoemaker Mile at Betfair Hollywood Park. Mike Pender trains Jeranimo for B.J. Wright and Robert LaPenta.
Phil Cunningham's Slim Shadey was sixth in the Woodford Reserve and last of six after pressing the pace in the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) June 8 at Hollywood. Trained by Simon Callaghan, the 5-year-old British-bred son of Val Royal has four starts at the nine-furlong distance without winning.
The French-bred Lucayan was disappointing in the Shoemaker Mile as well, wilting to fifth after chasing a solid pace by Obviously, who sped to a 3 1/4-length win in 1:32.86. The 4-year-old son of Turtle Bowl, trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Neil Drysdale for owner Pandora Stud, was second to Obviously in the American Handicap (gr. IIT) in his United States debut May 25. Lucayan upset the French One Thousand Guineas (Fr-I) in May 2012.
Drysdale has won three prior runnings of the Eddie Read. HIs most recent winner, Aragorn, set a stakes record of 1:44.79.
Another Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, has entered stakes-winning Fed Biz , most recently fifth in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) May 27 at Belmont Park. Kaleem Shah's 4-year-old Giant's Causeway colt has started just twice on turf, most recently finishing second as the favorite by a head to Battle Force after setting the pace in the one-mile Thunder Road Stakes April 6 at Santa Anita Park. He was third in the Frank Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) prior to that.
Baffert won the 1999 Eddied Read with Joe Who.
John Sadler has a pair entered for Hronis Racing but is likely to scratch one of them. The Japanese-bred 5-year-old Barocci, who drew the rail, was third in the American Handicap before returning with an allowance victory as an odds-on choice going 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood July 5. Irish-bred Vagabond Shoes, a group III winner in France, was a fast-closing second in an optional claimer at Hollywood May 25.
Cogito , an out-finished sixth in that same optional claimer in his first start of the year for Doug O'Neill and Reddam Racing, and last year's Super Derby (gr. II) runner-up, Fly Lexis Fly, complete the field. Cogito will race without blinkers while Fly Lexis Fly was a $3,000 supplemental entrant by trainer Peter Miller.
$300,000 Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT, Race 8, 5:40 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Barocci (JPN), J Talamo, 119, J W Sadler
2. Sofast (FR), J R Leparoux, 119, G Mandella
3. Fed Biz (KY), M Garcia, 121, B Baffert
4. Jeranimo (FL), R Bejarano, 121, M Pender
5. Cogito (VA), M Gutierrez, 119, D F O'Neill
6. Fly Lexis Fly (KY), E A Maldonado, 119, P Miller
7. Middie (KY), C S Nakatani, 119, P J Oliver
8. Slim Shadey (GB), G L Stevens, 121, S Callaghan
9. Lucayan (FR), G K Gomez, 119, N D Drysdale
10. Vagabond Shoes (IRE), V Espinoza, 119, J W Sadler