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Stevens’ Return Is Expected in August

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gary Stevens, the American star who began an open-ended contract to ride in England in late May, will be returning to the U.S. to ride permanently in late August, his agent said Friday.

Ron Anderson said: “I’m not in a position to say a lot, but I do know that Gary’s coming back at the end of next month. . . . There are some other things in the mix, such as the Thoroughbred Corp., but I can’t really say anything about that.”

There was talk along the Del Mar backstretch that Stevens might sign a contract to ride for the California division of Prince Ahmed Salman’s Thoroughbred Corp. Richard Mulhall, general manager of the Thoroughbred Corp., couldn’t be contacted.

Stevens, 36, left the U.S. earlier this year to ride under contract to Sir Michael Stoute, one of England’s leading trainers. Through Thursday, Stevens had won nine of 49 races for Stoute. Overall, Stevens had won with 28 of 143 mounts, a .195 percentage and well above average in any country.

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Stevens was riding so well in the U.S. when he left that he’s still one of the leading jockeys in the national money standings here. His mounts earned $5.6 million in five months, which through Thursday put him in 10th place. Stevens, elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1997, has a career purse total of about $186 million.

At Goodwood in England on Friday, Stevens won the Theo Fennell Glorious Handicap with Danish Rhapsody.

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No one has been more successful in Del Mar’s premier races for older horses--the Pacific Classic on dirt and the Eddie Read Handicap on grass--than trainer Bobby Frankel.

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Frankel has won half of the eight Pacific Classics and seven of the 25 runnings of the Eddie Read. No other trainer has won more than two of the Reads, and Frankel will take three shots here Sunday as he goes for victory No. 8 in the stake.

With Ladies Din, who swept three grass races for 3-year-olds at Del Mar last year, and Hawksley Hill, the second-place finisher in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, in the field, none of Frankel’s Eddie Read trio is expected to be favored. But he’s eager to try Bouccaneer, Kirkwall and Martiniquais on Del Mar’s deep turf course, which he thinks they’ll like much more than the firm grass going at Hollywood Park.

“This is a real turf course,” Frankel said. “There’s something wrong with a course when they run a race [Hollywood Park’s Sunset Handicap] and the three best horses in it get hurt. They abuse the course up there. They run a lot over it in the fall, during the turf festival, and by the time they get to the main meet, there’s not much left. They ought to just keep the turf course for stakes races.”

A British-bred horse who had been running in France before he reached Frankel early last year, Kirkwall is winless in Southern California, having scored his only U.S. victory in the Tanforan Handicap at Bay Meadows in January. Bouccaneer, a French-bred, has run only three times--his best a pair of thirds--for Frankel, who brought the colt back to the races in May after some extended hoof problems. Martiniquais, bred in Ireland, has won only one race in 1998-99, but that was his last start, the Dallas Turf Cup Handicap at Lone Star Park.

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That was at 1 1/8 miles, the distance of the Eddie Read and Martiniquais’ best distance. The 6-year-old’s record at 1 1/8 miles is four wins, two seconds and one third in eight tries.

Horse Racing Notes

Crystal Hearted won the Wickerr Handicap Friday night, breaking the record for a mile on grass at Del Mar with a time of 1:33. Crystal Hearted broke the record of 1:33 2/5 set by Joe Who in last year’s Wickerr. Joe Who has won three of nine starts since last year’s Wickerr and is 8-1 on the morning line for Sunday’s Eddie Read. Ten horses are entered, with Ladies Din the 5-2 morning-line favorite.


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