07/18/2013 1:47PM

Del Mar: Eddie Read U.S. debut for French import Sofast


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DEL MAR, Calif. – Sofast ran against many of France’s top horses in major stakes in May. He is not facing America’s best turf horses when he makes his first start in this country in Saturday’s $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar.

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Imported earlier this month, Sofast has been with new trainer Gary Mandella since July 10. A quick turnaround from the transatlantic flight to the Grade 1 Eddie Read is a slight concern for Mandella, who says he is eager to start Sofast.

“If I’d do it the traditional way, I’d wait,” Mandella said. “Some European horses need time to adapt. He’s taken everything in stride.”

Sofast is part of a 10-horse field in the Eddie Read, run at 1 1/8 miles on turf. The field includes Lucayan, who won the French 2000 Guineas in 2012; Jeranimo, winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile in 2012; and Middie, who was third in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs in May behind reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

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Sofast, a 4-year-old colt by Rock of Gibraltar, races for Alain and Gerard Wertheimer. Trained in France by Freddie Head, Sofast was third in the Group 2 Prix du Muguet at Saint-Cloud on May 1. Sofast was the last of seven in the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Longchamp on May 26.

The d’Ispahan drew a strong field. Race winner Maxios was second in the Group 1 Prix Ganay in April and sixth in a tough running of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Runner-up Planteur was third in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March behind American star Animal Kingdom.

Head, who trained Goldikova to three consecutive wins in the Breeders’ Cup Mile from 2008-2010, urged Mandella to start Sofast in the Read.

“Freddie Head said he definitely thinks he can run a mile and an eighth in this country on firm ground,” Mandella said.

One of Sofast’s main competitors will be Slim Shadey, winner of three Grade 2 races at 1 1/4 miles on turf, including the San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita in February. Slim Shadey has been fifth or sixth in his last three starts, but trainer Simon Callaghan said the 5-year-old gelding is capable of rebounding.

“He’s likely to throw in one or two clunkers,” Callaghan said. “At least he can win when it goes right. If he can get to the front, he’ll do well.”

Slim Shadey was sixth in the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park on June 8.

“It was one of those days that things didn’t work out for him,” Callaghan said. “He was slow away and got a little pressure.”

Fed Biz, trained by Bob Baffert, figures to race near the front. A 4-year-old Giant’s Causeway colt, Fed Biz was third in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf at Santa Anita in March.

Lucayan and Jeranimo are capable of winning on their best races. Lucayan was second to top local turf miler Obviously in the Grade 2 American Handicap on May 25, but last of five behind Obviously in the Shoemaker Mile on June 29. Jeranimo, who won the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita in January, was fourth in the Shoemaker.