The Eddie Read (Grade II)

7/22/2017 Del Mar-Race #4

The 44th Eddie Read-Grade II $250,000

9 Furlongs on Turf for Three-Year-Olds and Upward

Post Time: 3:40 PM PST

                No doubt all eyeballs with be focused squarely on Arrogate late Saturday afternoon since he is making his return to the races off his legacy-stamping effort in the Dubai World Cup.  However, outside of bridge-jumping show plungers, the San Diego Handicap appears to offer very little in the way of drama or suspense.  For numerologists, the 44th Eddie Read happens to be the fourth race of the day—on the fourth day of the Del Mar summer meeting—and as such will go forth as the source of this weekend’s write up, you guessed it…forthwith.

1-Mr. Roary 10/1 ML- Paid big balloons when he broke his maiden at 38/1 in the Rainbow last spring.  He was completely overmatched against sophomores last summer at Del Mar in the Oceanside Stakes, La Jolla, and Del Mar Derby.  He’s been a tough customer at the first and second level allowance levels, but intermixed with those efforts was an open lengths beat down in the Grade II Twilight Derby at today’s distance.  So yes, it’s nice that he heads into this race coming off a win against decent runners, and that he has some gate speed in his arsenal to offer, but the real truth is this: he’s 0-for-3 with zero in-the-money-placings on the beach, he’s going to be sent to the lead as the torch bearer while taking tremendous pressure from a more-accomplished Kenjistorm, and his only other appearance in a Grade II race left him blown to smithereens when he was hoisted the white flag after six furlongs; only a matter of time before the levee breaks and have to believe he’ll be the first to crack in a field that will not be taking any prisoners.

2-Hunt 3/1 ML- Whatever many handicappers will conclude about this horse’s chances will dictate how they approach this race.  Some will view Hunt as a logical alternative as a win candidate to Ashleyluvssugar and on some level that makes sense.  He’s in good hands, has a premier rider atop his back who has meshed well with him, his last two figures of 103 and 99 class up with this group and other than his one dirt race which is a complete toss out, you have to dig deep to find his last bad race.  Contrariwise, I see several negatives coming out of his corner: Hunt is on a five-race losing skid, the thrust of his winning efforts have come on the Santa Anita hillside turf course and Mike Smith has bailed on him for the second time now even though he’s available to ride the race but apparently has no inclination to do so.  Hunt also adds Blinkers for the first time to try and get a little more speed going early on, but others sport a similar game plan.  The horses bracketing him are faster than he is and the addition of the hood may actually put him too close to the fire.  Regardless, recent form indicates Ashleyluvssugar is likely to get the jump on him turning for home and as a result, I’m left with the unavoidable conclusion that Hunt won’t be able to “ketch up” to ‘Ashley through the lane; like others more.

3-Kenjistorm 5/2 ML- Richard Baltas’ runners are always tough on the grass and the barn almost got the candy opening day before Bowie’s Hero ran down Pioneer Lad inside the last 1/16th to prevail in the Oceanside Stakes.  As much as I liked Pioneer Lad in the Oceanside and was enthusiastic about his chances, I’m much more hesitant to make the cash call to back this chestnut by sprinting up to the window with vim and vigor.  ‘Kenji’s wins are few and far between and even though he figures to chew up and spit out Mr. Roary, he’s likely going to be sized up on the food chain by Ashleyluvssugar from a perfect stalking trip in behind horses and Gary Stevens will definitely be pushing the leading duo along.  Bejarano is as crafty as they come and you know that ‘Kenji is likely going to get first run on the cast of closers and will likely sit an ideal stalking trip off Mr. Roary.  If ‘Kenji was 6/1 last time in a Grade III and ran sixth with no legitimate excuse, how can you swallow 5/2 on him in a Grade II in the Eddie Read?  And dog piling on that fact, he’s 1-for-5 at Del Mar without a minor placing so it’s not exactly like he has shown a real fondness for this course and surface.  Prat bailed for Hunt and I’m not in love with his chances either as we all know; don’t be surprised if he’s a bit of an overlay from his morning line price and I find him to be very iffy in here; will work around him.

4-Wanstead Gardens 8/1 ML- Numerologists will quickly see that Wanstead Gardens is the number four saddle cloth (see intro above).  The Wanstead Gardens are located in Barbados as well as Belfast in the United Kingdom.  Interestingly, or perhaps unremarkably depending on your appreciation of geographic topography, Wanstead Gardens is an Ontario-bred and according to my crack research staff there is no such place in Eastern Canada.  The Flower Alley chestnut comes in on, you guessed it…a four-race losing streak, but does have four wins on the resume and nearly quarter of a million in earnings. Tyler Baze is 1-for-1 atop Wanstead Gardens and that effort did come at the beach.  This appears to be his favorite course and would be his fourth win over the Jimmy Durante sod.  The pace should be lively and to his liking.  In my opinion he rates above the competition drawn to his inside; don’t sleep on him, especially given the all-important big horse-little barn angle; numerologists, geography enthusiasts and value hunters unite.

5-Up With the Birds 15/1 ML- Have always respected him whenever I’ve seen him pass the entry box.  He’s a former Grade I winner but has fallen on somewhat tough times in recent performances.  He was handled with ease by Ashleyluvssugar at Santa Anita and Prat bails on him and Kenjistorm in favor of Hunt.  He’s been shipped all over creation, including a trip to Japan as well as many stints in Canada, doing his best running north of the border.  He needs a ton of pace to set up his late kick and there should be a solid tempo unfurling in front of him but he must avoid falling too far off the pace to make a real impact.  ‘Ashley should definitely get the jump on this fella and it’s difficult to envision a scenario where he will be able to reel in the best Cal-bred in training without a ton of racing luck on his side.  It’s been 45 months since his Grade I victory and back to October of 2015 to find his last triple digit Beyer speed figure. He’ll have to be able to turn back the hands of time and tap the glory days on the shoulder if he has any designs on going for a victory lap on the gallop out; outsider.

6-Ashleyluvssugar 7/5 ML- It’s typically my style to get around a favorite as often as possible, and if you have experience reading my writing, you know it’s not very often that I reference a favorite in all the competitors’ analysis as I’ve done with Ashleyluvssugar.  So by my own admission I do hereby readily admit that his form is the benchmark of performance on the proverbial grading curve.  10 wins in 22 starts speaks volumes, along with a string of eight straight triple digit Beyers before that was snapped in the San Luis Rey.  Nine to 11 furlongs appears to be the perfect sweet spot for this runner so the distance ideally suits him.  In the San Luis Rey, Gary Stevens admitted to mishandling the ride a bit by putting ‘Ashley on the lead, eventually succumbing to the constant pressure of Itsinthepost.  Stevens adroitly handled ‘Ashley in the Whittingham, skillfully carving out a path to get him up in the final jump.  ‘Ashley is best when he has a target to run at and should be sitting in midflight, ready to pounce when called upon.  Believe he’ll avenge his loss to Midnight Storm in last year’s edition and give Gary Stevens his third win in this race.  Stevens piloted Tsunami Slew to victory in 1985 for Eddie Gregson and later won aboard Fastness for trainer Jenine Sahadi in 1996; though I despise taking chalk baths with a passion, I’ll happily assume the vulnerable position of backing the favorite.

7-Abbey Vale (Ire) 12/1 ML- Even though he’s a claimer, Abbey Vale comes into the Eddie Read in extremely sharp form and it’s worth noting that before whatever infirmities began to plague him, he was competing in Grade II and III efforts back in February of 2016.  Apparently he’s back to feeling his oats and Doug O’Neill did his research and felt it was worth $62,500 to halter him out of his last race.  The horse he chased home at Santa Anita is Blackjackcat and he’s Grade II stakes-placed twice over on grass.   Expect Kyle Frey to begin to make a name for himself this summer at Del Mar and Abbey Vale should be in a nice stalking spot following Ashleyluvssugar up the back stretch.  It wouldn’t shock me at all to see the price float up on Hunt and Kenjistorm and fall a bit on Abbey Vale.  He may look a bit cheap on paper, but Doug O’Neill will have him ready to compete first off the claim.  The pace is to his liking and Abbey Vale should be part of any exotics conversation you have with your handicapping buddies if you’re playing vertical tickets; can definitely get a piece of this.

Selections: 6-4-7-5