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He Has a Sweet Return to Track

Times Staff Writer

A year ago, Sweet Return and jockey Jerry Bailey had enough traffic trouble in the Eddie Read Handicap to account for the horse’s 1 1/2 -length defeat.

On Sunday, in the 32nd edition of the Eddie Read, jockey Alex Solis didn’t have to worry about anyone getting in Sweet Return’s way. On the lead almost from the start, Sweet Return also was allowed to romp along under soft fractions. At the head of the stretch, Solis had enough horse left for a 1 1/2 -length win in the $400,000 Grade I race.

“This horse has run hard, and run often,” said his owner, John Brunetti. “When he’s gotten beat, there’s usually been a reason. In last year’s Arlington Million, he got shut off. The year before that, at Keeneland, he threw a shoe and came back lame. He’s a genuine horse.”

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Brunetti, owner of the currently shuttered racetrack in Hialeah, Fla., bought Sweet Return in 2002 from the Aga Khan for about $300,000. Sunday’s win at Del Mar, worth $240,000, was Sweet Return’s seventh in 26 starts and raised his purse total to $1.5 million.

Fourty Niners Son nosed out Singletary, the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, for second place. Castledale, the 3-2 favorite, was fourth in the six-horse field. Sweet Return, running 1 1/8 miles on grass in 1:46 2/5 , paid $7 as the second choice.

The victory for trainer Ron McAnally was his third in the Eddie Read and his 70th at Del Mar, which ties him with Bob Baffert on the track’s career list. The late Charlie Whittingham is first with 74. Sweet Return went into the Read off a win in another Grade I race, named after Whittingham, at Hollywood Park.

Solis, who won Saturday’s Fleet Treat with Soldier’s Kiss, has won 75 stakes at Del Mar.

“He broke really sharp and then he relaxed,” Solis said of Sweet Return. “I just let him roll along. He’s got a half-mile run in him that’s special.”

McAnally said that Sweet Return, eighth in last year’s Arlington Million, would take another shot at the race Aug. 13.

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Trainer Jeff Mullins might have finished fourth with Castledale in the Eddie Read, but earlier he saddled Choctaw Nation for a one-length win over Ace Blue in the $250,000 San Diego Handicap. The 5-year-old gelding had lost four in a row since winning the stake a year ago.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Choctaw Nation paid $5.40 as the favorite, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 2/5 . Choctaw Nation’s $150,000 payday sent his earnings over the $1-million mark.

Fourth in last year’s Pacific Classic, Choctaw Nation could get another chance in the $1-million race Aug. 21.

Before his two San Diego Handicap wins with Choctaw Nation, Espinoza won the race with Taste Of Paradise in 2003. Chris McCarron won the stake three consecutive times twice during the 1990s.

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Keep The Faith, running for the first time outside Australia, making his first start this year and running with the bleeder medication Lasix for the first time, set a North American record by running six furlongs on grass in 1:06.82 at Belmont Park. The previous record belonged to Answer Do, who won in 1:07 at Hollywood Park on Dec. 15, 1990. Keep The Faith, owned by Sheik Mohammed and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, carried 120 pounds and won by 2 1/2 lengths. It was his first start since April 2004. He paid $9.70. Keep The Faith, ridden by John Velazquez as a substitute for Jerry Bailey, had won four of nine starts in Australia. ... Leading Spirit, the 2-5 favorite, won the $625,000 Rainbow Futurity for quarter horses at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico.


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