09/25/2013 4:34PM

Santa Anita: Layoff horses make Eddie D Stakes tricky to handicap

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Benoit & Associates
Unbridled's Note (right) will come off an almost five-month layoff to defend his title in the Eddie D Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – New paint and a spiffy remodel are among the fresh improvements at Santa Anita, which begins its autumn meet Friday.

But freshness also comes on four legs, and the principal entrants in the Grade 3 Eddie D Stakes are certainly fresh.

Caracortado has not started in nearly 21 months, Snowday has raced just once in 11 months, and Unbridled’s Note has been off almost five months. Layoffs aside, another shared trait is all are good horses qualified to win on opening day.

A field of 14 entered the $100,000 Eddie D, a 6 1/2-furlong turf sprint that leads to the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Win the Eddie D, as Unbridled’s Note did last year, and the Breeders’ Cup is next.

“We only run one [turf sprint] a year that is worth any money, so if you have a horse that is good, you might as well take a shot,” trainer Gary Mandella said.

Mandella trains Snowday, a 3-year-old making his U.S. debut two months later than expected. When he arrived from France in May, he got sick. A planned summer campaign became a fall campaign.

Based on his overseas form, Snowday might be up to the challenge Friday. He won a Group  3 last year at 2; his only start this year was a Group 2 runner-up. Snowday will race on Lasix, and Mandella expects him to fire first start back.

“He trains like his form would expect him to train, like a good horse,” Mandella said. “He trains like a horse that is going to relax and make a run.”

Rafael Bejarano rides.

Caracortado has not raced since Jan. 8, 2012, when he unleashed an electrifying late burst to win the Grade 3 Daytona on the Santa Anita hill. A prolonged ailment to his right front foot kept him away for a year and a half.

“He shed his whole frog, it was a big hole,” trainer Mike Machowsky said. “I didn’t know when he would come back to run, I really didn’t.”

However long it took, Machowsky was confident the wait would be worth it. Caracortado has won nine races and $864,105 from 19 starts and is prepping for the BC Turf Sprint. Felipe Martinez was named to ride, there will be a switch. Is the 6-year-old fit enough?

“I don’t know if fitness is an issue, but I generally don’t run a horse off a 19-month layoff,” Machowsky said. “He’s got a wicked turn of foot, and he’s not going to be hooked up there in the middle duking and fighting it out.”

One horse that will be close to the pace is Unbridled’s Note, who won the Eddie D last fall while in the middle of a campaign. This year, Unbridled’s Note runs without benefit of a recent start. His last race was May 4. Steve Asmussen trains; Corey Nakatani rides.

The “now” horse is Chips All In, shortening up after two Del Mar routes.

“Sprinting down the hill is what he likes to do,” trainer Jeff Mullins said.

Chips All In won the Grade 3 San Simeon on the hill in April, but is not Breeders’ Cup-eligible. Julien Leparoux rides Chips All In; Mullins also starts Sirocco Strike.

Koast entered hoping the race might split. It did not, and trainer John Sadler said Koast will scratch. Other entrants include Et Tu Walker, Huntsville, Boat Trip, Handsome Mike, Rock Me Baby, Rosengold, Majestic City, and El Mirage King.