Del Mar Stakes Taking Shape

From Del Mar Turf Club
Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum's Irish Prize, trained by Neil Drysdale and winner of three straight graded stakes, will carry top weight of 122 pounds as he heads a potential field of perhaps six for Saturday's grade I, $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap.

The 1 1/8-mile race is annually Del Mar's premier grass event of the meeting, and generally serves as a prep for the Arlington Million at Arlington International Race Course near Chicago.

Irish Prize, a 5-year-old gelded son of Irish River, once again will have Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens in the irons, making his fourth straight start on the horse for Drysdale and the head of the royal family of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Irish Prize's most recent victory came in Churchill Downs' grade II Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap, where he carried 122 pounds one mile on July 4. Prior to that, the horse captured the grade I Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park on May 28. He started his three-race win streak with the grade III Fastness Handicap May 13, also at Hollywood Park.

Two of his Hollywood Park victims are expected to tackle him again on Saturday. They are Timboroa, who has been assigned 117 pounds, and Native Desert, who will carry 114. Timboroa is owned by Edmund Gann and trained by Robert Frankel, and Native Desert is trained by Juan Garcia for owner Miguel Rubio.

Others expected for the race are Redattore, National Anthem and Super Quercus, though each is considered a bit iffy.

For raw excitement, Sunday's grade II, $250,000 San Diego Handicap could rival last Sunday's Bing Crosby showdown between Kona Gold and Caller One.

The horses won't be sprinting as Kona Gold and Caller One did, but the quality of the potential field ranks it way up on the high end of the scale. You can start with defending San Diego and Pacific Classic champion Skimming. Then you can go to Futural, who finished first in the Hollywood Gold Cup but was disqualified and placed third behind Skimming in that race. From there, you can turn to Freedom Crest, who was on a three-win streak before suffering losses in his most recent two races.

Add to that the return of multiple graded stakes winner Budroyale, who is a full brother to reigning Horse of the Year Tiznow and who just missed winning the Breeders' Cup Classic in 1999.

Those horses are among those already committed to the race, and aren't bad for starters. But there's more, including Spicy Stuff, Penamacor, Redattore and perhaps Smile Again and Out of Mind. The biggest "perhaps," however, is Dubai World Cup champion Captain Steve, who has lost two races since his return from the United Arab Emirates, but has been working toward either this race are the $1-million Pacific Classic on Sunday, August 19.

So the San Diego could possibly have a field of 10 to go 1 1/16 miles on the main track.