07/20/2008 11:00PM

Well Armed sharp in San Diego return


DEL MAR, Calif. - Well Armed led throughout Saturday's $300,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, winning his first start since finishing third in the $6 million Dubai World Cup in March.

From trainer Eoin Harty's perspective, the key to victory was the strategy that jockey Aaron Gryder used on the final turn. Instead of waiting until early stretch to ask Well Armed for extra run, Gryder urged his mount on the turn and widened a half-length lead on the backstretch into 2 1/2 lengths in early stretch. Well Armed won the Grade 2 San Diego by 1 1/4 lengths over Surf Cat.

"Aaron gets full credit," Harty said. "I thought he caught them by surprise."

Well Armed ($5.40) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.57, setting a track record. He led by a length through early fractions of 23.29 and 46.89 seconds before pulling clear. "He’s a free-flowing horse with a big stride and he was running easy with his ears pricked," Gryder said.

Surf Cat, fourth early, finished second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Mostacolli Mort in the field of 10.

Well Armed, 5, won the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita last February. He was beaten eight lengths by reigning Horse of the Year Curlin in the Dubai World Cup.

Owned by WinStar Farm, Well Armed, by Tiznow, has won 5 of 17 starts and $1,030,803. Harty said the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 24 is Well Armed’s next goal. He also earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile since the San Diego is part of the Win and You're In series.

Osunitas: Zardana strikes at $89.60

Zardana gave Gryder a sweep of Saturday's two stakes with an upset win in the $90,605 Osunitas Handicap. Zardana ($89.60) rallied from fourth to win by a half-length over Fleet Caroline, running 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:42.28. Bahama Mama finished third in the field of nine fillies and mares.

The longest shot in the field, Zardana, 4, had lost her first four starts in the United States for owner Arnold Zetcher and trainer Ron McAnally.