A Classy Champion, 1989 Belmont Stakes Winner Easy Goer
Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Saturday at Del Mar and other major developments this weekend:
MAGICAL SWITCH: Hronis Racing’s Tripoli has not been the easiest horse to figure out for highly-regarded trainer John Sadler. Tripoli did not make it to the races as a juvenile, then produced his first 11 starts on turf before a switch to dirt in June. The surface change was richly rewarded when the 4-year-old Kitten’s Joy colt won the TVG Pacific Classic by 1 ¼ lengths against Tizamagician to secure a fees-paid berth in the $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6 at Del Mar. “We didn’t know if he could go a mile and a quarter, but (Saturday) we found out,” said owner Kosta Hronis after Tripoli completed the testing distance in 2:02.37. Sadler won his third Pacific Classic in four years.
PERSEVERANCE PAYS: When jockey Tiago Pereira opened Del Mar’s summer meet by losing his first 48 starts, it had to be impossible for him to imagine that he would escape such depths to turn the Pacific Classic into his first victory in a $1 million race in the United States. Yet that is exactly what happened aboard Tripoli. Pereira wanted to be so sure that he was laser focused on the prestigious race that it was his lone mount for the afternoon. “Give the rider a lot of credit. He rode him perfectly,” Sadler said. And give Sadler credit for sticking with a rider it would have been easy to lose faith in. The Pacific Classic upset represented only the fourth win of the meet for Pereira.
BOFFO BUSINESS: Del Mar did more than break its single-day wagering record for a non-Breeders’ Cup card. It smashed it. It obliterated it. The idyllic track, which will host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 5 and 6, handled $36,005,613 for the 11-race TVG Pacific Classic Day card. That crushed the previous mark of $25,870,431 for Pacific Classic Day in 2018. The difference can be attributed to a mandatory payout of the 20-cent Pick Six Jackpot, which reached $10,751,767. There were 822 winning tickets, each worth $10,521.50.
MAGNIFICENT MALATHAAT: Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat reasserted her dominance by rebounding from her lone defeat to capture the $600,000 Alabama Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga by 1 ½ lengths against onrushing Clairiere. It was her sixth victory in seven starts and boosted her earnings to $1,555,150. Malathaat had set a heavily-pressured pace for jockey John Velazquez when Maracuja overtook her by a head in the Coaching Club American Oaks in her previous start. This time, Velazquez was able to settle her into a comfortable stalking position. Newly-minted Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher paid Malathaat the ultimate compliment when he said, “I feel she’s as good as we’ve ever had and she stepped up and redeemed herself the way you’d expect her to.” Pletcher is considering training the Longines Kentucky Oaks winner up to the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 6.
ON TARGET: Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets winner Essential Quality appears to be poised for a peak performance in the $1.25 million Runhappy Travers Stakes next Saturday at Saratoga. The winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes, a Travers prep, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.58 in company with the filly Bonny South on the main track at Saratoga on Saturday with regular rider Luis Saez aboard. This followed a bullet five-furlong drill in 59.40 seconds the previous week in which more was asked. “We’ve tried to sharpen him up in the last few weeks and I feel like we have mentally,” said trainer Brad Cox. “He’s ready to go.” The 152nd edition of the famed “Mid-Summer Derby” will be one of six Grade 1 races on the blockbuster card.