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Eddie D highlights Santa Anita opener

Unbridled's Note will attempt to gain momentum for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint while making a title defense (Benoit Photo)

The 24-day autumn meet at Santa Anita begins Friday and turf sprinters take center stage in the opening-day feature, the Grade 3, $100,000 Eddie D Stakes. A full field of 14, including defending champion Unbridled's Note and the returning Caracortado, will square off down the hill in the about 6 1/2-furlong affair.

Santa Anita will again host the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships on November 1 and 2, and the meet gets off to a fast start with a number of important prep races. The Eddie D promises to yield runners for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, and Saturday's smorgasbord contains five Grade 1 events: the Awesome Again (prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic), Zenyatta (Distaff), Rodeo Drive (Filly & Mare Turf), Frontrunner (Juvenile) and Chandelier (Juvenile Fillies).

Other key races include Sunday's Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship; and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship and Grade 2 City of Hope on October 5.

Santa Anita will offer a total of 27 graded stakes, including 14 Breeders' Cup events, during the autumn meet.

Unbridled's Note made his turf debut a winning one in last year's Eddie D, scoring by 1 1/4 lengths as the favorite, and followed it with a commendable half-length second to Mizdirection in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. He won't have to face that classy rival Friday (Mizdirection is training up to the Breeders' Cup), but the four-year-old colt brings some fitness concerns into the race having not started since a disappointing eighth over a sloppy track in the May 4 Churchill Downs Sprint.

Unbridled's Note loves course, though, producing his lone win this year in the Joe Hernandez down the hill in late February, and the Steve Asmussen charge could easily go favored with regular rider Corey Nakatani.

Caracortado will look to shake off the rust in his first appearance since a sharp victory over the course in the Grade 3 Daytona in January 2012. A five-time stakes winner, including three graded events, the six-year-old gelding stamped himself as a rising star in the turf sprint division before being forced to the sidelines by foot problems. Trainer Michael Machowsky is using the Eddie D as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint and hopes for a solid showing after the near 21-month absence. Felipe Martinez picks up the mount.

French Group 3 winner Snowday will make his U.S. debut for new trainer Gary Mandella. Fourth in last year's Group 1 Grand Criterium at Longchamp, the three-year-old colt will be making only his second start of the year after a runner-up in a Group 3 event at Maisons-Laffitte in early April. Leading Southern California rider Rafael Bejarano takes over the reins.

Sirocco Strike can't be dismissed from consideration after garnering his first stakes victory via disqualification in the August 14 Green Flash at Del Mar. Joe Talamo rides for Jeff Mullins. Rock Me Baby has run well over the course previously (a win and a close second from two attempts) and exits a nice win at Del Mar for Craig Dollase. Et Tu Walker enters on the upswing for Doug O'Neill, producing a sharp 2 1/2-length score over optional claiming rivals at Del Mar last time out that generated a career-best 101 BRIS Speed rating.

Grade 2 hero Handsome Mike has not had much success of late, but he broke his maiden over the course and will receive class relief in this spot. Multiple stakes winner Majestic City adds Gary Stevens to the saddle and could appreciate the surface switch following a fourth in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby and a fifth in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien on Polytrack. Multiple stakes victor Rosengold cuts back in trip and brings speed to the equation.

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