01/12/2011 4:39PM

Square Eddie returns from retirement, injury at Santa Anita

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Barbara D. Livingston
Square Eddie, a 5-year-old who was retired in February, returns to the races Friday in an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Square Eddie, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity in 2008 but a horse plagued by injuries and setbacks for the last two years, comes out of retirement after an 11-month layoff in an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on Friday.

Despite the gap between races, and Square Eddie’s seven-race losing streak dating to the Breeders’ Futurity, trainer Doug O’Neill is highly confident about the 5-year-old’s chances.

“He’s ready to win,” O’Neill said. “His times are solid, and he’s bouncing out of his works.”

Square Eddie has not started since finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December 2009, when he was plagued by a breathing disorder, owner Paul Reddam said last year. Last February, while being prepared for the Strub Stakes, Square Eddie was diagnosed with a suspensory injury that led to his retirement to stud.

Reddam retired Square Eddie to Vessels Stallion Farm, near San Diego, where the horse was bred to 34 mares, according to Jockey Club statistics.

O’Neill said the suspensory injury has healed.

“The majority of those just take time,” he said. “He was bred mostly to Paul’s mares.”

A winner of 2 of 12 stars and $819,366, Square Eddie was second in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He placed in two graded stakes on the Kentucky Derby trail in 2009 but did not start in the Kentucky Derby because of a cannon bone injury.

O’Neill said the goal for Square Eddie in 2011 is to start in the major stakes races for older horses in Southern California, a division badly in need of prominent additions.

Friday’s race drew a field of seven, including Moonlark, the sharp winner of an optional claimer over 5 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on Dec. 10. Trained by Bob Baffert, Moonlark won that race by 6 1/4 lengths, earning a 104 Beyer Speed Figure.

“He really smoked in that race,” Baffert said.

Moonlark, who has shown speed in recent starts, is likely to go favored Friday.

Stacy’s Hope, winner of an optional claimer Nov. 14, has an opposite style as a closer, which concerns trainer Brian Koriner.

“It’s hard to know what to expect on this track,” Koriner said, referring to a speed-friendly track at Santa Anita. “He’s been working okay since he’s been here, not spectacularly, so it’s hard to tell.”