07/25/2005 12:00AM

Sweet Return wins Eddie Read Handicap


DEL MAR, Calif. - Give Sweet Return an inch and he'll take more than a mile. For the third time in his career, and the second race in succession, Sweet Return was left alone on the lead in a Grade 1 race, and his rivals never stood a chance.

On Sunday, in the Grade 1, $400,000 at Del Mar, Sweet Return dawdled through the first six furlongs in 1:12.70, then stormed through the final three furlongs in 33.83 seconds to win to score a 1 1/2-length victory under Alex Solis in the 1 1/8-mile grass race.

Fourty Niners Son, fifth of six early, rallied strongly along the rail to take second, nosing out Breeders' Cup Mile winner Singletary in the final jump. Castledale, the 3-2 favorite, was parked wide coming out of the chute, and though able to save ground on the first turn, never had the leaders come back to him. He finished fourth.

Sweet Return ($7) got away with similar pace scenarios twice previously, last month in the Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park, and in November 2003 in the Hollywood Derby, both going 1 1/4 miles. That is the same distance Sweet Return will traverse next month, when he heads to Arlington Park for the Arlington Million, a race his trainer, Ron McAnally, has won three times previously.

McAnally said he was "shocked" that Sweet Return's rivals gave him another easy lead.

"It worked out good," he said, smiling. "At least he stayed out of trouble."

Sweet Return completed the 1 1/8 miles on the new, firm course in 1:46.53. The victory was his seventh in 26 lifetime starts. McAnally trains Sweet Return, 5, for the Red Oak Stable of John Brunetti.

Brunetti had asked McAnally to think about sending Sweet Return to the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth the previous weekend, but McAnally talked him out of it, citing the ship and the probable heat as factors.