Updated on 09/17/2011 2:08PM

Special Ring defends Eddie Read title

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Making his first start in nine months, Special Ring defended his title in Sunday's $400,000 , reaffirming his position at the top of the nation's turf miler.

Special Ring led throughout to win by three-quarters of a length over entrymate Bayamo. Special Ring finished 1 1-8 miles on turf in 1:45.90, narrowly missing the track record of 1:45.87 he set in the 2003 running.

Both Special Ring and Bayamo are owned by Prestonwood Farm and trained by Julio Canani.

The win put Special Ring firmly on course for the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30. In the 2003 BC Mile, Special Ring was steadied in the stretch, finished eighth, and emerged from the race with a pulled muscle.

"For him to come back after the injury in the Breeders' Cup is very gratifying," owner Jack Preston said.

Victor Espinoza rode Special Ring, and had the 7-year-old gelding in front a few strides away from the gate. Special Ring led by as many as 3 1-2 lengths, setting fractions of 23.64 and 47.12 seconds, virtually an identical pace as the 2003 running.

Racing well off the rail, Special Ring led by a length on the final turn.

"If you put him on the fence, he takes off," Canani said. "I told Victor, 'Don't drop him onto the rail until the middle of the turn."

Bayamo rallied from fourth to reach contention but could not catch his stablemate. Sweet Return, a four-time stakes winner, was stuck behind Special Ring and alongside Bayamo in early stretch and finished 1 1-2 lengths behind the winner.

Special Ring became the third repeat winner of the Read, joining Wickerr (1981-82) and Fastness (1995-96). Special Ring has won 10 of 26 starts and $915,023.