Unlike some of its stakes brethren on Santa Anita Park’s opening day, the Grade 2 Eddie D Stakes doesn’t offer a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” spot. It does, however, offer something no other track in North America offers its contestants: a trip down the iconic Santa Anita Hillside Turf Course.

Eddie D-Gregorian Chant
Gregorian Chant (2) won three consecutive sprints earlier this season. He tackles Santa Anita Park’s unique downhill turf course for the first time Friday in the Grade 2 Eddie D Stakes. (Image: Benoit Photo)

Friday’s Eddie D, named after the legendary Hall of Fame rider Eddie Delahoussaye, is one of four stakes on Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet opening day. But unlike the others – and every other race around North America that day – it takes its nine older competitors nearly 6 ½ furlongs on a unique turf trip.

It does so for the first time since March 2019 when the Hillside Turf Course was shelved after Arms Runner broke down running it during the 2019 Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes. The horse had to be euthanized.

Eddie D Stakes runs alongside a familiar road

Santa Anita’s Mike Willman pointed out that the course runs alongside Colorado Place, a strip of road famous for two elements. The first, the Pasadena stretch, is the main stretch for the annual Tournament of Roses Parade. And that stretch of Colorado Place was once part of America’s Mother Road, the legendary Route 66.

The nine horses, led by Midwest invader Snapper Sinclair and West Coast sprint mainstay Gregorian Chant, must handle a slight right turn not long out of the gate. From there, the horses go down and up a small swale hidden by a copse of trees. Coming out of that, they emerge at the quarter pole, then cross an 80-foot strip of Santa Anita’s main dirt track before rejoining the turf for the stretch drive.

The likely favorite is trainer Steve Asmussen’s Snapper Sinclair, last seen on the West Coast finishing fourth in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita. Asmussen rarely sends his charges west; this marks the 6-year-old horse’s third trip to the West Coast in 33 races.

Can Snapper Sinclair handle two fewer furlongs?

Adding to the novelty of the event, Snapper Sinclair is primarily a miler. He finished second in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last December, then won an Oaklawn Park allowance mile opening his 6-year-old season. He added a fourth in a mile event in Dubai, a second in the Black-Type Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs, then won the mile and 70 yards TVG Stakes at Kentucky Downs earlier this month for his seventh career victory.

You get the idea. This is not only Snapper Sinclair’s first trip on the Santa Anita turf, but his first sprint since Oct. 17, 2018, at Keeneland. That 5 ½-furlong turf sprint didn’t go so well; he finished eighth of nine as the 3.10/1 second-favorite.

His main competition figures to come from another converted router, Gregorian Chant. Trainer Phil D’Amato, who won Santa Anita’s Winter/Spring Meet training title, reinvented this 5-year-old, English-bred gelding into a sprint star earlier this winter. Between January and April, Gregorian Chant won three consecutive, six-furlong sprints at Santa Anita, including the Grade 3 San Simeon in mid-March.

Gregorian Chant needs to stretch out

Last time, Gregorian Chant finished third in the five-furlong Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar. He too hits the downhill turf course for the first time.

So will the lone mare in the field, D’Amato’s Charmaine’s Mia. She brings three graded stakes victories at six furlongs, and two at a mile into the fray. She too, won three graded stakes earlier this year. And, she too hasn’t sprinted since winning her first start for D’Amato in January’s Grade 3 Las Cienegas. That was five starts ago.