A familiar face and a new one made big splashes by winning the $1 million Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) on a picture perfect day Sunday at Del Mar.
Returning to the track he dominated the past three summers, Joel Rosario was received warmly by fans, horseman and media throughout the day. When it was show time, he reminded everyone of what they got used to seeing when he was a regular in California.
The Dominican Dandy’s patented four-wide move and charge down the center of the track produced yet another major stakes win, something that hasn’t been as frequent since he moved his tack to New York in June.
“I always love it here in California,” Rosario said with a wide grin. “Maybe for Santa Anita [Park], but sooner or later I’m going to be back. Time will tell.”
The horse power underneath that got him to the wire in track record time was making his debut in California and trying older runners for the first time, but Dullahan’s feet sure were at home on the synthetic Polytrack surface. He remained undefeated on Polytrack while posting the 5-to-1 upset.
“Coming here and beating Game On Dude and Richard’s Kid stamps him as 3-year-old horse of the year,” Jerry Crawford, managing partner of owner Donegal Racing, said at the post-race news conference. “Both Dullahan and I’ll Have Another have three Grade 1 victories, but only Dullahan is still racing.”
Dullahan entered off a pair of double-digit defeats on dirt and exits with an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on the Santa Anita dirt main track in November.
His connections shouldn’t have to think too long or hard before passing on North America’s richest race. They have their sights set on $10 million next March on a synthetic surface halfway around the world.
“We will fill in the races between now and the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) based upon what’s best for the horse,” Crawford said. “I am Vice President of the Breeders’ Cup board of directors, but that being said we have to figure out what tracks make the most sense.”
The Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) would certainly have to be at the top of the list. A pair of tries on the sod at Saratoga Race Course in his 2-year-old season resulted in two in-the-money finishes for the son of Even the Score.
The fan favorite among racegoers at the seaside track had no shame in settling for a runner-up finish, as Game On Dude was sent off as the 6-to-5 favorite and had most of the 34,482 in attendance shrieking his name as the horses came down the stretch.
The 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding ran his lungs out in a winning effort that also eclipsed the previous 1 ¼-mile track record of 2:00.61, and Game On Dude remains one of the favorites for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Richard’s Kid was not able to notch a Pacific Classic hat trick, settling for third in his first start for connections that housed him for just the week leading up to the race. He moved at the same time as the eventual winner after being far back early, but the path to the inside was not as fruitful as the one Dullahan found on the outside.
“All the way around, I thought I was going to get the money, but unfortunately the horses slowed down in front of me and I had to wait more than I wanted to,” Victor Espinoza said after his first ride aboard the 2009 and 2010 Pacific Classic winner. “I saved ground and had a good trip until turning for home.”
Like Dullahan, the future for Richard’s Kid is a bit uncertain. Making his name as a synthetic specialist, he hasn’t touched dirt in more than three years. However, from 12 starts on dirt early in his career, he has four wins and nine in-the-money finishes, which means another circus leading up to a rematch with Game On Dude in the Breeders’ Cup Classic is possible.
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