Shapiro: Pacific Classic a one-horse race from start to finish
Photo & story by Scott Shapiro
A lifetime best Brisnet Speed figure of 112 in the Pacific Classic from California Chrome and a record all-sources handle at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club headlined a great day of racing on Saturday afternoon in Southern California.
The $1 million Pacific Classic was billed as one of the strongest fields in history, but it was a one-horse race from start to finish.
2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome added to his 2016 resume with a dominating wire-to-wire score in the mile and a quarter event. It was five lengths back to champion mare Beholder in second and two and a half back to Bob Baffert conditioned Dortmund in third.
The morning after the dazzling performance from his star runner, Art Sherman said that “(California Chrome) looked good. I went over him, knees, ankles, everything was tight, everything looked good.”
Whether the five-year-old runs again before the Breeders’ Cup Classic remains a question mark, but if he does it will almost certainly be in the Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita Park on October 1st.
The plans for Beholder also remained a question mark the day after her runner-up effort yesterday.
When asked about future plans for his star-mare, trainer Richard Mandella stated that another try against males was possible, but said “we may go a little more conservative into the Breeders’ Cup. But we’re not going to shut any doors today.”
If Mandella opts for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, it could set things up for a rematch with Stellar Wind, as well as a showdown with undefeated three-year-old filly Songbird.
Despite a somewhat disappointing performance from his two Pacific Classic competitors, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said that both Dortmund and fourth place finisher Hoppertunity came out of the Pacific Classic well.
He also mentioned that “(The Pacific Classic) wasn’t really the race we were expecting. We didn’t want to go too fast (early) but then when California Chrome got away and was just cruising, we were all running for second.” It remains to be seen where the Baffert runners will race next.
In the undercard, 5-2-favorite Ashleyluvssugar took the lead early under jockey Gary Stevens, opened up on the backstretch and held off a furious late charge from Phil D’Amato trained Metaboss to capture the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap. The win gave trainer Peter Eurton his second stakes victory of the meet and his first in the event. It was Stevens ninety-third stakes win “Where the Turf Meets the Surf,” giving the Hall of Famer the seventh most of all-time.
The third stakes on the Pacific Classic Day card was the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. The mile and an eighth turf event for three-year-old fillies also produced a great finish with the late running Harmonize getting the best of fellow closer Decked Out by a head. The Bill Mott filly finished the nine-furlongs in a time of 1:48.71 under jockey Junior Alvarado. Stays in Vegas kicked clear in the stretch, but tired late to finish third.
The big day at Del Mar saw a crowd of 24,155 on hand and produced a track record all-sources handle of $25,060,204. The previous record was $24,667, 351 on Pacific Classic Day of 2007.
Two full weeks remain during the Del Mar summer meeting with the Pat O’Brien Stakes headlining next weekend’s action.