Gabriel Charles finds conditions ideal in Eddie Read
A track known for its virtually flawless weather and track conditions, Del Mar was hit by rain Saturday morning and also before post time for the first race. The new dirt track turned into a sea of slop for the first time in who knows how long, and history hunters discovered it was the first "off" track at the San Diego-area course on a day of racing since 1991. The Eddie Read, the only race of the day scheduled for the turf that stayed on the grass, was conducted on good ground.
Making his third start off a lengthy layoff, Gabriel Charles powered home under Mike Smith to give the jockey and trainer Jeff Mullins another stakes win at the young meeting. The pair teamed up to win Thursday's $116,000 Oceanside with Soul Driver, and also won a juvenile maiden with first-time starter Rockin Bayou in the race preceding the Eddie Read.
Sixth and six lengths behind the leader with three furlongs to go, Gabriel Charles made a sweeping outside rally to win going away by 3 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:48.13. He paid $11.40 as the 9-2 third choice in a field of seven.
Twentytwentyvision, an 11-1 chance making his stakes debut, finished second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of deep-closing, second choice Finnegans Wake. Midnight Storm, the 13-10 favorite, weakened to fifth after pressing a pace set by Big Cazanova.
There was much to recommend Gabriel Charles going into the Eddie Read, including solid form over the Del Mar turf prior to its 2014 refurbishment. As a three-year-old, in 2013, he had missed by a head in a division of the one-mile Oceanside and then went on to capture a division of the nine-furlong Del Mar Derby (G2).
Subsequently second in the Twilight Derby (G2) at Santa Anita, the five-year-old son of Street Hero was out of action for more than 17 months following that race due to a bowed tendon. He returned this past spring and was second to Midnight Storm in a one-mile allowance and then third in the American (G3), also over a mile, to the high-class pair of Bali a Bali and Talco.
The step back up to nine furlongs and a return to his favorite course clearly agreed with Gabriel Charles, who races for Sam Britt and Michael House.
Gabriel Charles relishes 1 1/8 miles, but the only big turf races remaining at Del Mar this meet are the Del Mar Mile (G2) and the Del Mar H. (G2), the latter over 11 furlongs. Whether his connections choose to go out of state or stay in California remains to be seen, but a race like the John Henry Turf Championship (G2), over 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita's fall meet, is one of the more plausible races Gabriel Charles could target.
Finnegans Wake, winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs in May, was down by as much as 16 lengths and was clearly left too much to do by Victor Espinoza. He's effective from nine furlongs to 1 1/2 miles, and should factor again no matter where he shows up.
Midnight Storm, coming off a close second-place finish to Talco in the Shoemaker Mile (G1), perhaps needs to be on the lead to show his best. He's dropped two straight since adopting pace-pressing tactics.
(Gabriel Charles photo: Benoit Photos)