ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 14, 2011) – He hadn’t raced in 12 ½ months, had not won in over 26 months, and, in the meantime, he had been bred to 35 mares. Little wonder Square Eddie looked like a horse on a mission Friday when he returned from retirement to run lights-out in Santa Anita’s allowance feature, the $59,000 Phone Trick Purse.

Ridden by Joel Rosario, the comebacking 5-year-old chestnut overwhelmed his opposition, showing much early speed, en route to a 3 ¼ lengths victory, while timed in 1:13.11, which blistered Santa Anita’s previous dirt track mark of 1:13.71 set by Son Of A Pistol on April 4, 1998.

Square Eddie had the credentials to excel despite his lengthy absence. He was second in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after winning the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, his most recent victory on Oct. 25, 2008.

The Canadian-bred son of Smart Strike never made it to the Triple Crown races the following spring, however, after suffering a cannon bone injury. He raced six times with little success in 2009 while beset with various ailments including a breathing disorder.

“We’ve had a lot of mental highs and mental lows with Eddie,” owner Paul Reddam said in the winner’s circle on Friday. “This is very special today.”

Winning trainer Doug O’Neill was ebullient following the victory.

“This is exciting. He bred 35 mares and they did a great job with him down at Vessels (Stallion Farm). He had a high suspensory strain and…I’ll be very interested to see how he looks in the morning—if he’s knocked out or body-sore. Hopefully we’ll find an empty feed tub and a bright, happy horse. We’re thinking big races with him, Santa Anita Handicap or Dubai.”

Sent off as the 5-2 second choice with Joel Rosario in the saddle, Square Eddie tracked the early pace of Feisty Suances in the field of seven. He took control midway down the backstretch, and, after one left handed tap nearing the wire, Square Eddie was geared down in the closing yards. He paid $7 for the win.

Stacy’s Hope, the 9-2 third choice, ran on for second under Victor Espinoza. Feisty Suances, ridden by David Flores, hung on for third 1 ¾ lengths further back at odds of 35-1. Moonlark, the 11-10 favorite, never mounted a serious threat while finishing fourth.

Doug O’Neill, who trains Square Eddie, was very confident in the paddock. “He’s been training fabulously,” O’Neill said. “He’s ready to win.” Noted Reddam in explaining the comeback, “He seemed healthy finally, and he hadn’t been that great of a sire. So why not?”

“The race didn’t unfold like we thought it would,” O’Neill said afterward, explaining that he expected Moonlark and unplaced Bradium to be dueling for the lead. “But here we are,” O’Neill continued, “up on the lead, and our horse is pulling Joel, and they’re going 21-and-two and 43-and-two. But he was in hand, and he was able to finish up real good.”

While Square Eddie displayed brilliant speed in his comeback, Reddam had grander ideas. “We’ve always thought he was a mile-and-one-quarter horse,” he said, “so that’s the exciting thing.”

Square Eddie’s comeback win was worth $35,400. The purse boosted his career earnings to $854,766 from an overall record of 3-2-2 in 13 races.

The goal now for Square Eddie, according to O’Neill, is to start in major stakes races for older horses in Southern California.

Santa Anita launches a three-day holiday weekend of racing on Saturday with three graded stakes races highlighted by the Grade II, $150,000 San Fernando Stakes on a nine-race program that commences at 12:30 p.m.