Whoa…Time flies when you are having fun…that is fo sho !!!
A quick glance at the calendar tells us this is one of the most glorious weeks of the year. Pacific Classic week has become one of my favorite parts of our revolution around the sun. Hard to believe, but it has been eight years since me and my filly first went West and discovered one of the most fabulous places on earth.
The brainstorm of Bing Crosby, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is way more than where the turf meets the surf. It’s a place where memories are made and dreams are fulfilled. I am kind of mushy about it as for obvious reasons my streak is about to be broken. But alas, hopes are next year is a new beginning.
Here is a quick hitter on each of the past eight Classics. As the biggest race of the summer meet at old Del Mar, we’ll also provide a thought on 2020.
THE ROMANS THUNDER-It was 2012 and the synthetic surface saw three year old Dulahan use a powerful late kick to run down Game On Dude. Rolling like an untracked train, this strapping Dale Romans trainee shipped in and stormed his way into the record books at the Seaside Oval.
THE DUDE HAS HIS DAY-One of the best handicap horses in the Golden State, Game On Dude had been denied his spot on the Clubhouse wall the year before. Not this time. Breaking like a shot and leading at every call, it was Game On for this Dude as he bolted to an 8 ½ length win.
SOME REAL BELIEF-The 2014 edition was supposed to be a coming out party for a spectacular three year old but the break said different. Slow out of the gate, Shared Belief looked to be doomed…until the stretch that is. Unleashing the stride that had made him the heavy favorite, his will never waivered. As his backers had thought, Shared Belief was best.
BEHOLD HER-In a race that really was a thing of beauty, Beholder looked like Ava Gardner in becoming the only female winner of the Pacific Classic. Taking the boys to the woodshed under jockey Gary Stevens, she put’em away with a jaw dropping move on the far turn. Covering the mile and a quarter in pin-up poster time (1:59.77), Beholder’s 8 ½ length win was gorgeous.
BRIGHT AND SHINY- The 2016 Classic saw one of the most dominant performances ever…in any race anywhere. A super talented field and a rail draw were standing between California Chrome and the winner’s circle. Fearlessly piloting him to the lead right out of the gate, jockey Victor Espinoza rode like he had the best horse because…he did. Chrome shined brightly that day as he scored by six lengths.
CALM, COOL, AND COLLECTED-Bob Baffert was supposed to win the race…and he did. Super freak Arrogate was looking to get back to his accustomed ways, but somebody forgot to tell that other Baffert trainee, Collected. An old-time rider for the Baffert barn, jockey Martin Garcia stuck with what has made him and this horse dangerous. Hustling his mount out of the gate, they held off a closing stable mate.
NAMESAKE NO DOUBT-In 2018, Accelerate went to post as the biggest favorite in Classic history. Then he ran like it. Displaying the dynamics that made him the best in the game that year, this John Sadler trainee was much the best. Winning by a record 12 ½ lengths, Accelerate hit the gas pedal a quarter mile from home and never looked back.
MUCH NEEDED BY ALL-A life without faith is an empty life, that’s one of my live by axioms. A believer in the omens of horse racing, we all need a little something to believe in, especially today. Higher Power broke well exuded his authority throughout. Running brilliantly under Flavian Prat, this John Sadler trained son of Medaglia d”Oro surged to the lead and held steadfast in heavenly fashion. Higher Power superbly represented the sport in name and performance.
WHAT ABOUT 2020?- We will find out on August 22 if Maximum Security is all that and a bag of chips too…my bet… pass the Pringles please.
AND THEN THE BIG DOG ATE
A little more than two minutes after the gates opened in the 10th race at Del Mar on August 22 the questions were answered. This edition of the Pacific Classic was supposed to tell us about Maximum Security and in fact it did.
Coming into this mile and a quarter test, some wondered about this so-called super horse. With his previous conditioner, Jason Servis, embroiled in an illegal doping scandal there is an understandable stigma surrounding Maximum Security. If he ran dirty while under Servis’ care, which he likely did, were the 9 times he had crossed the finish line first in 10 tries real?
Doping is never cool, but it can’t turn Mr. Ed into Secretariat. There has to be talent to win. The drugs will enhance but cannot create those abilities. Question is, was this son of New Year’s Day a souped up beagle hound or a much larger breed that just happened to be the biggest victim in the scandal?
With one start under current conditioner Bob Baffert under his belt, we knew the determination of a real racehorse was there. Winning by a nose in the San Diego Handicap back on July 25 over a determined Midcourt, the only time he led was at the wire. But that showed his “refuse to lose” mentality.
A master at conditioning and bringing out the best in his runners on the biggest days, Baffert tightened the screws and sent Max to Post. Breaking like a champ, Maximum Security exuded confidence and ran like the best horse in the race…because he was. Leading gate to wire under jockey Abel Cedillo, Max was hounded by Sharp Samurai through the opening mile. Turning for home with authority, he put away the competition with a strong stretch run. Winning by a widening three lengths, the Gary and Mary West owned runner proved without a doubt he is real.
“It’s not his fault what he went through,” said Baffert. after the powerful run. “Today he proved he is a great horse.”
Maximum Security returned $2.80 on a win bet, Sharp Samurai held on for second, Midcourt finished third and defending Classic champ Higher Power was fourth.
So in the end in the 30th running of the Pacific Classic, the Great Dane cleaned his bowl.