February 5, 2023

Master Piece survives objection, pays $34.20 in Eddie Read upset

Master Piece and jockey Abel Cedillo win the Eddie Read at Del Mar (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Chilean import Master Piece was overlooked as the also-eligible drawing into Sunday’s $252,500 Eddie Read (G2) at Del Mar. But the 16.10-1 shot soon commanded attention when exploding from off the pace to a daylight victory. Then the Michael McCarthy charge had to survive an objection from trainer Phil D’Amato to keep his biggest stateside win.

Although Master Piece was on the outside looking in at entry time, help was close at hand. McCarthy had cross-entered There Goes Harvard to Saturday’s San Diego H. (G2) and to the Eddie Read, and revealed that the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) winner was likely staying on the dirt. There Goes Harvard wound up last behind Royal Ship on Saturday, but his defection from the Eddie Read opened the door for Master Piece.

Breaking from the far outside post with Abel Cedillo, the big gray made his presence felt literally. He shifted into Cathkin Peak, who consequently was forced into Hong Kong Harry next door, and bounced around like a pinball. Those two D’Amato trainees would go on to finish second and third, Hong Kong Harry as the 3-1 second choice and Cathkin Peak a 7-1 chance. Also affected in the chain reaction was the eventual fourth Homer Screen, whose hind end was shoved out from under him, causing him to get out of sync for a few strides.

Meanwhile, D’Amato’s Masteroffoxhounds was flashing speed on the rail, intent on preventing 8-5 favorite Beyond Brilliant from enjoying an easy lead. He accomplished that mission not only by rattling off a first quarter in :23.24, but by lighting up Beyond Brilliant. The favorite overtook Masteroffoxhounds through a half in :46.28 and angled over to the rail.

Masteroffoxhounds counterpunched, tacking to the outside in a reversal of positions, and re-engaging at the six-furlong mark in 1:10.04. At that point, Tango Tango Tango advanced to join the fray, only to float wide off the far turn and leave a massive gap.

Enter Master Piece. After rating kindly in the latter part of the field, the son of Mastercraftsman improved with a ground-saving run on the far turn. He found wide open space to tip out and go after Beyond Brilliant and Masterofffoxhounds. Driving past the leaders, Master Piece drew off by 3 1/4 lengths.

Hong Kong Harry closed to take second in a blanket finish for the minors. Cathkin Peak, arguably the most materially compromised by Master Piece at the start, belatedly found a seam and did his best work late in third. Homer Screen, who lost position on the backstretch, took the overland route home and offered a mild bid in fourth.

D’Amato was swift to lodge his objection against Master Piece, citing his interference at the break. The stewards examined the various replay angles of the incident, but ultimately allowed the result to stand. As relayed by track announcer Trevor Denman, the stewards ruled that the contact was not sufficient to warrant a change in the order of finish.

“I didn’t think a whole lot happened at the start,” Cedillo said. “I just brushed the horse alongside me. My trip was really good; he was running all the way. At the three-eighth pole I got lucky. I had to go between two horses and it was there for me. Then he was really running late. Big race; good race for him.”

McCarthy said that he was expecting a good performance, but even he didn’t anticipate such an authoritative display.

“He’s very good fresh; he’s a happy horse down here. I was surprised at the move he put in; I knew he’d run well. That was pretty impressive.

“I was a little concerned,” the trainer added regarding the objection, “but it was one horse (involved), and it’s not like he rocked half the field.”

McCarthy is mathematically correct that Master Piece didn’t hamper half the field. Still, observers will point out that three others were involved.

In any event, Master Piece did run out an emphatic winner and rewarded his loyalists with $34.20. By negotiating 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.25, the six-year-old enhanced his resume to 18-6-2-1, $354,412.

Master Piece races for Fernando Diaz-Valdes, Baalbek Corp., and Don Alberto Stable (his breeder). As a sophomore in Chile, he won three straight including the Gran Clasico Coronacion (G2) and placed third in El Derby (G1). Master Piece began his U.S. career with Chad Brown, reporting home a useful fourth in the 2020 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and taking a Keeneland allowance in April 2021. But after disappointing in last season’s Manhattan (G1) and United Nations (G1), he was transferred to McCarthy.

The Southern California atmosphere agreed with him, as he surged in the Del Mar H. (G2) and just missed. Shelved following a fifth in the John Henry Turf Championship (G2), Master Piece resumed with a fourth in the May 30 All American S. on the Golden Gate Tapeta. While that brought him on, he clearly enjoys life at Del Mar.

Out of Chilean champion Torre Laguna, a daughter of Proud Citizen, Master Piece descends from Broodmare of the Year Juliets Nurse.