United © Benoit Photo
Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella fired one of his big guns Sunday at Del Mar and the boom shook the grounds and might reverberate forward to the shore track’s biggest race of the season.
The veteran trainer gave Flavien Prat a leg up on his turf ace United for the $200,000 Eddie Read Stakes at nine furlongs on grass and watched him walk his beat for an impressive half-length tally.
Then he shook up a couple of turf writers afterwards when he said he’s seriously considering Del Mar’s signature race – the $500,000 TVG Pacific Classic – as a next start for his ace even though the big chestnut son of Giant’s Causeway has never run on the dirt.
“…this horse is training so well on the dirt, month after month, that I’m going to consider running him in the Pacific Classic,” Mandella said immediately following the victory. “I’ve been thinking all summer about it.”
That surprise set up a potential showdown between possibly the best grass horse on the grounds with possibly the best dirt horse in Maximum Security, who won his TVG Pacific Classic prep yesterday in a photo-finish thriller in the San Diego Handicap.
United ran the Grade II Read distance in 1:46.71 and, as the 7/5 favorite, paid $4.80, $3.40 and $2.60 across the board. The $120,000 share of the winner’s purse pushed his bankroll to $1,453,549 for owner Larry Ross, who races under the name LNJ Foxwoods.
Finishing second in the Read was Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal’s Sharp Samurai and third was CYBT, Gevertz, Gitomer, et al’s Neptune’s Storm.
United, a 5-year-old gelding, is racing in some of the best form of his life. He’s now three-for-three on the year after winning a pair of Grade II turf tests at Santa Anita earlier in the year.
Mandella, it is recalled, surprise folks at Del Mar previously in 2015 when he unexpectedly entered his filly Beholder in the TVG Pacific Classic against the boys and she proceeded to towrope them by more than eight lengths in a stunning performance.
The trainer has four wins in the Pacific Classic already.
FLAVIEN PRAT (United, winner) – “The race came up perfect. He broke real well and we got a great spot. We went along fine and when I asked him, he just went on with it. When you ride a really good horse like this, it makes things easier. Good horses do good things; they put you in good spots. It’s all easier with his kind.”
RICHARD MANDELLA (United, winner) – “We ran him short (less distance) just to pick his head up. Sometimes you run them long too many times they get stale. But this horse is training so well on the dirt, month after month, I’m going to consider running him in the Pacific Classic. (United has run 12 times on turf and twice on synthetics in his career). I’ve been thinking all summer about it. We’ll think about the Del Mar Handicap on turf, too, but if he keeps training on dirt as well as he has been…”
FRACTIONS: :23.88 :47.84 1:11.68 1:35.27 1:46.71
The victory in the Eddie Read was the third stakes win of the session so far for rider Prat and his third in the race itself. He now has 47 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The victory in the Eddie Read was the first stakes score of the meet for trainer Mandella, but his third in the Read. He now has 65 stakes wins at Del Mar, sixth most among all trainers.
The winning owner, LNJ Foxwoods, is Larry Ross from Great Neck, New York.