By the Numbers: The Pacific Classic at Del Mar
Del Mar is the center for California racing in the middle of summer, and no race captures the imagination more than the 1 1/4 mile Pacific Classic (G1). It’s one of the great races of summer and has produced some great performances and at least one stunning upset.
The number of females to have won the Pacific Classic. That one, however, was an outstanding mare, Beholder, who won the 2015 race by 8 1/4 lengths. She was so impressive that she was then set to take on American Pharoah in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), but a fever in the week leading up to that race denied racegoers a highly anticipated clash. She returned to the Pacific Classic the following year, finishing second to California Chrome.
The record time for the Pacific Classic, set by Candy Ride in 2003. Outgunning Medaglia d’Oro in the stretch, it was Candy Ride’s sixth victory from six starts and looked set to herald an exciting American career for the Argentinian-bred. Unfortunately for racegoers, injury meant he never raced again. But he did get that exciting American career as a stallion, producing a number of outstanding runners, including 2017 Horse of the Year and the exciting first-season sire Gun Runner.
The highest number of Pacific Classic victories any horse has achieved. Tinners Way was the first to achieve it, in 1994 and 1995, and then Skimming – like Tinners Way, owned by Juddmonte Farms – was successful in 2000 and 2001. Richard’s Kid emulated their feat in 2009 and 2010. Tinners Way and Richard’s Kid both attempted to win it for a third time; Tinners Way was pulled up without finishing in 1996, while Richard’s Kid placed third in 2012 and fourth in 2013.
The number of Pacific Classic that subsequently finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Bertrando (1993), California Chrome (2016), and Collected (2017). More winners have finished second than have subsequently gone on to win the Classic; only Accelerate (2018) achieved the double.
The number of five-year-olds to win the Pacific Classic, the most successful age group in the race. There have also been 11 victorious four-year-olds, five three-year-old winners, and two six-year-old winners: Pleasantly Perfect (2004) and Game On Dude (2013).
The record margin of victory in the Pacific Classic, set by Accelerate in 2018. The margin may also be the key to the success of Pacific Classic winners in the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Accelerate is the only winner of the Del Mar feature to then win the end-of-season championship.
Despite a history of just 30 previous editions, three trainers between them account for 16 of the victories. Two trainers have won the race six times. Bobby Frankel won six of the first 11 runnings of the race, scoring with Missionary Ridge (1992), Bertrando (1993), Tinners Way (1994 and 1995), and Skimming (2000 and 2001). Bob Baffert has since equaled that record, winning with General Challenge (1999), Richard’s Kid (2009 and 2010), Game On Dude (2013), Collected (2017), and Maximum Security (2020). In addition, Richard Mandella has won four times, with Dare and Go (1996), Gentlemen (1997), Pleasantly Perfect (2004), and Beholder (2015).
The number of editions of the Pacific Classic run on dirt. The remaining eight, between 2007 and 2014, were on the Polytrack all-weather surface that Del Mar installed. Student Council won the first Pacific Classic on the Polytrack; the final winner on that surface was the outstanding but ill-fated Shared Belief in 2014.
The crowd that turned up in for the 1996 Pacific Classic expecting to see Cigar break Citation’s consecutive win record of 16 for a major American stakes horse. They would depart shocked as 1-10 favorite Cigar, having sat outside Siphon on a very hot pace, had nothing in reserve when 39-1 outsider Dare and Go challenged him in the stretch.
The record-low prizemoney in dollars for the Pacific Classic when it was staged last year. The race began as a $1 million feature in 1991 and has been at least at that level every year since then, barring an unlikely fall in value to $980,000 in 2003 when only four runners took part. But the effect of the COVID-19 virus meant the Classic fell to $500,000 last year. It’s back to $1 million for 2021.