07/20/2006 11:00PM

Silent Name, making noise


DEL MAR, Calif. - He's a horse without a country, an equine vagabond, with ties to Europe, the Far East, and now Southern California, where he is trying to establish himself once and for all as a major player in a tough division.

If nothing else, Silent Name is a model of the modern international Thoroughbred. He was bred and born in Japan, at the famed Shadai Farm of the Yoshida family, on the northern island of Hokkaido. As a foal, still by his mother's side, he was flown to France, the home of his owners' breeding operation. There he was raised, trained, and finally raced a total of 10 times before it was concluded that he might be a better fit in the good old U.S.A.

So far, there have been no arguments with that conclusion. Silent Name emerged this past winter to win an allowance race at Santa Anita, followed by a victory in the Arcadia Handicap. His subsequent third-place finish in the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park took nothing away from his growing reputation, and now he will try to win the $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap going nine furlongs on the grass at Del Mar on Sunday.

Silent Name's opposition includes Aragorn, winner of the Shoemaker Mile, as well as Sweet Return, the defending Eddie Read champ. Hendrix, Fourty Niners Son, Quasimodo, and Fast and Furious complete the field.

"The question is the distance," said Gary Mandella, who trains Silent Name. "Can he get more than a mile? All we can do is try."

From all reports, there's always been a lot of try in Silent Name. He tends to empty the tank every time, so the challenge has been teaching him to spend his physical capital wisely. His first instructor was Criquette Head-Maarek, one of France's top trainers.

"Criquette thought this horse was better than he was able to show in his record," Mandella said as he admired Silent Name, who was enjoying a late-morning munch at his hayrack. "The problem was that he would pull hard, and force his way to the front when there was no pace, and that does not work very well in Europe."

Silent Name did manage to win three of those 10 French races, including two minor stakes at one mile, both of them on the straightaway at Deauville last summer. When pitched against top horses earlier, Silent Name made no impression in the 2005 running of the French Guineas. But later, in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, he managed a respectable fourth, beaten only a length.

Not bad for a colt who was supposed to be a filly. At least, that was the plan, when Alain and Gerard Wertheimer sent four mares to France to the court of Sunday Silence in Japan for the 2001 breeding season.

"Mr. [Alain] Wertheimer was hoping to mix something different into his bloodlines," Mandella noted. "The law of averages would dictate that he would get two colts and two fillies, but instead he got four colts. Silent Name was one of them."

As a male representative of the next-to-last crop of Sunday Silence, Silent Name carries both intrinsic and sentimental value. His dam, Danzigaway, is from the families of Danehill and Blushing Groom, which should suggest something more than a mile. If he can nail the nine-furlong Read, Silent Name could place himself in a whole new economic bracket.

"At first impression, Silent Name wouldn't remind you of Sunday Silence at all," Mandella noted. "He's a plain bay, not real dark, and he has very little white on him - only a little around the hind leg."

Sunday Silence, of course, was as close to black as a dark brown horse could be, with that slash of a blaze that looked like some kind of prehistoric weapon.

"If you look at Silent Name from behind, though, he is sickle hocked, just like Sunday Silence," Mandella said. "And he has a big, imposing shoulder like Sunday Silence had."

The last time a Wertheimer horse made news in the Eddie Read was 13 years ago, in August of 1993, when Kotashaan came off a three-month break for Richard Mandella, Gary's Hall of Fame father. Kotashaan kicked home like a sailor on leave that day to win by three, then later added victories in the Oak Tree Invitational and the Breeders' Cup Turf and an unlucky second in the Japan Cup to complete a Horse of the Year campaign.

"Silent Name is a good-feeling horse, with no bad habits," Gary Mandella said. "He just wants to put himself into his races too soon. But I'm hoping that he will be running in large enough fields that there will be plenty of pace for him to sit behind, then make his run."

With just five opponents in the Shoemaker and now six in the Eddie Read, Silent Name has been catching smaller fields than he usually faced in France. Chances are, he won't get much of a pace to attack on Sunday. Still, he seems to feel right at home in Mandella's care - if the gleam in both coat and eye is any indication - and the time might be right to take things up a notch.

"And if the nine furlongs isn't his game, there are plenty of mile races we can fall back on," Mandella noted. Perhaps even the Breeders' Cup Mile, this year at Churchill Downs?

"We can only dream," the trainer replied.