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Del Mar: United, Flavien Prat repeat in Eddie Read Stakes

DEL MAR — There were major concerns in the Richard Mandella barn after United’s most recent start, a last-place finish in a four-horse field as the odds-on favorite in the Grade II Charles Whittingham Stakes at Santa Anita on May 29.

Going into the Whittingham, the 6-year-old United had finished in the money in 13 of his 18 starts, winning eight of them. Mandella said before the Whittingham that he thought the son of Giant’s Causeway was as good as ever.

If there were questions about United going into Saturday’s $250,000 Grade II Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, they’ve been answered after he rallied from fifth as the 3-1 second choice and overtook even-money favorite Smooth Like Strait in the final sixteenth of a mile to win the 1 1/8-mile turf race by a neck.

“He came in off that terrible race,” Mandella said in the winner’s circle. “I’d never had him run that bad. We were worried, watched and checked (him). We did every test you can do, and we found a bruise under his shoe two weeks later. It didn’t seem like that big a deal, but it must have been.”

United ran like the $1.6 million-plus money earner he is in the Eddie Read, defending his victory in last summer’s edition with a stirring rally in the stretch after Award Winner, a 15-1 longshot, set dawdling fractions of 25.19, 49.43 and 1:14.01.

Smooth Like Strait, who won the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita in his last start on May 31, took the lead at the head of the stretch and looked like he might be headed to victory with Umberto Rispoli aboard, but Flavien Prat had United in full gear and he ran down the favorite for his ninth victory in 20 races while improving his career bankroll to $1,675,549.

Last year, when United won the Eddie Read by a half length, he sat second much of the way through a much faster pace until the stretch. Prat, who won two races Saturday to pad his lead in the Del Mar rider standings to 9-4 over Abel Cedillo, Kent Desormeaux and Kyle Frey, was content to lay fifth most of the way this year in a seven-horse field, and the move paid off handsomely.

“Different race, different time,” Mandella said. “I just let Flavien do the riding. He’s pretty good at it.”

Prat’s also very good when it comes to teaming up with United.

“He fits ’em all well,” Mandella said.

Prat said he wasn’t worried about United’s position up the backside.

“I could tell the fractions were slow. I could feel it,” he said. “But my horse was traveling well and he was comfortable. I knew his last race wasn’t his real race and I felt he’d run better today.

“The only question was being able to get out (in the clear). He did, and he ran well through the lane. He’s back.”

Mandella, who last year toyed briefly with the idea of running United in the Grade I Pacific Classic after his Eddie Read victory, had no such lofty goals this time.

“We were on a roll (last year),” he said. “I was (giddy). We’ll probably look next at the Del Mar Handicap (Aug. 21).”

Smooth Like Strait held second by one length over Count Again, ridden by Joe Bravo. Final time over a firm turf course was 1:49.49.

The victory was Mandella’s third in the Eddie Read and 69th stakes victory overall at Del Mar, sixth most all-time. It was Prat’s third straight Eddie Read victory and 63rd stakes win at the track, 12th best all-time.

San Clemente Stakes

Prat was denied a sweep of the day’s two stakes races when Madone, with Hernandez aboard, closed strongly on the outside to edge 2-5 favorite Going Global by a half length in the $200,000 Grade II race for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.

Madone, trained by Simon Callaghan, went postward at 5-1 while winning for the fifth time in seven starts. A daughter of Vancouver, Madone is 3 for 3 at Del Mar.

Going Global brought a five-race winning streak into the race and appeared ready to make it six in a row while rallying along the fence, but Madone, beaten 10 3/4 lengths when the two met up last in the Grade III Honeymoon Stakes at Santa Anita on May 22, had other ideas.

Final time for the 1 mile was 1:35.28.

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