07/21/2009 11:00PM

Shift in strategy for Thorn Song


DEL MAR, Calif. - The last time Thorn Song raced in California he was trained by Dale Romans and shipped in from Kentucky to score a convincing win in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on Memorial Day.

Not even two months later, Thorn Song is back in California under vastly different circumstances. Owner Zayat Stables and Romans have parted, and Thorn Song has been sent to trainer Mike Mitchell. Mitchell starts Thorn Song for the first time in Saturday's $350,000 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, and the trainer plans to make some minor changes.

Thorn Song often runs on the lead, but Mitchell is reluctant to send Thorn Song to the front in the Eddie Read, worried that a speed duel with Monterey Jazz would end any chances of winning the nine-furlong turf race. Furthermore, Thorn Song's blinkers will be opened up slightly.

"We're going to change some things around, nothing drastic," Mitchell said.

Giving jockey Mike Smith the option of not sending Thorn Song to the lead is a shift in strategy. Thorn Song led throughout the Shoemaker, winning by a head over Hyperbaric. Earlier in his career, Thorn Song won by stalking the early pace. Most of his wins, though, have occurred when he has led throughout.

"Basically, I'll leave it up to Mike," Mitchell said. "There are some races that he's been off the pace. If he wants to send, it will be up him. He knows the horse more than I do."

Thorn Song has won 8 of 28 starts and $1,132,700.

"I love the way he's training," Mitchell said. "He seems like he's very fit. He's won a Grade 1 race. You don't want to do too much differently."

The Read has drawn a field of eight, including Artiste Royal, Awesome Gem, Dakota Phone, Global Hunter, Monterey Jazz, Richard's Kid, and Whatsthescript.

Trainer Julio Canani said that Hyperbaric wasn't entered because he has been turned out for approximately three months because of body soreness. Hyperbaric has been sent to a local farm and will return to training in the winter, Canani said.

Less ambitious plans for Grazen

Grazen, second in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park last Saturday, will make his next start in the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes over a mile on Sept. 5, said Mitchell, who trains the colt.

Grazen made four starts at Hollywood Park during the spring-summer meeting, winning his first three races, including the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds in June. The El Cajon is restricted to 3-year-olds.

Mitchell said the El Cajon will be Grazen's prep for the California Cup Classic at Santa Anita in early October.

Sept. 5 could be a big day for Mitchell. He is hoping to start Monzante in the $85,000 Windy Sands Handicap here over a mile on the main track. The winner of the 2008 Eddie Read Handicap, Monzante has not started since finishing fifth in the Del Mar Mile here last August.

Chance to prove they belong

Cleisthenes and Rainbow Goose were supposed to do better than fourth and fifth in an optional claimer at Hollywood Park on July 2. The race was intended to be a prep for the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes on Wednesday, but neither started in that race. Cleisthenes was not entered; Rainbow Goose did not draw into the field from the also-eligible list.

The consolation is a start in Friday's eighth race, an optional claimer for 3-year-olds over a mile on turf. The race is a prep for the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf on Aug. 15, but both geldings need to win or run very well on Friday to justify an appearance in such a race.

Rainbow Goose is making his third start for trainer Jack Carava, having finished second in an optional claimer on June 11 and losing by 4 1/2 lengths on July 2. On June 11, he came from off the pace; on July 2 he led early. Carava wants Mike Smith to have Rainbow Goose off the pace for the first half of Friday's race.

"The second time he broke with the field and was off," Carava said. "I'll ask Mike to watch the tape. I think he needs something in front of him."

Cleisthenes is making his second start in the United States. A maiden winner in England in May, Cleisthenes was the 8-5 favorite on July 2, but never mounted a serious rally and was beaten four lengths.

"I was a little disappointed last time," trainer John Sadler said.

Garrett Gomez retains the ride on Friday. Cleisthenes starts from post 10.

"I don't like the post," Sadler said.

* Octogarian, the impressive winner of a maiden race for 2-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park on July 9 in her debut, will return in the $150,000 Sorrento Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 7, trainer Doug O'Neill said.