As far as Jerry Crawford is concerned, year-end 3-year-old honors were decided with Dullahan’s victory in the Pacific Classic.
The colt overcame 6-5 favorite Game On Dude in the stretch to win the $1 million race at Del Mar by a half-length Sunday and become the fourth 3-year-old to win the $1 million race.
”Coming here and beating Richard’s Kid and Game On Dude stamps him as the 3-year-old horse of the year,” said Crawford, who oversees the Donegral Racing partnership that owns Dullahan. ”He and I’ll Have Another each have three Grade 1 victories, but only Dullahan is still racing.”
Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another was retired because of a tendon injury the day before the Belmont Stakes, dashing the colt’s attempt to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 34 years.
”I take nothing away from I’ll Have Another, but I think there’s something to be said in breeding for endurance and soundness,” Crawford said.
”We’ve had all kinds of fancy 3-year-olds — fast, brilliant, exciting 3-year-olds — retired to stud because they couldn’t hold them together. This horse is as sound as any horse we’ve ever campaigned. You don’t have to do anything to him. I hope that at some point people are going to say, ‘Maybe horse racing would be a better activity if we bred to sound horses.”’
Dullahan showed once again that he sure loves synthetic surfaces.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, the colt ran 1-1/4 miles on the Polytrack in a track-record 1 minute, 59.54 seconds and returned $12.60 for a $2 win bet. Dullahan was taking on older horses for the first time.
”There’s nobody else in the country that’s won three Grade 1s on any surface and placed in graded stakes on the turf and the dirt, including finishing third in the Kentucky Derby," Crawford said. "I would respectfully say the question with Dullahan is what surface can’t he run on, not what surface can he run on.”
Dullahan’s other Grade 1 wins were in the Blue Grass and Breeders’ Futurity, both on Polytrack. Trained by Dale Romans, the colt finished third in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in the Belmont. Dullahan was fifth in his previous start, in the Haskell Invitational.
”How about that! Oh my god, he ran great,” said Tammy Fox, Romans’ partner and his assistant who traveled from Kentucky to supervise the horse. ”I’m so glad we can come to California and take the West Coast money. They always take our money; now we’re taking theirs.”
With the win, Dullahan earned an automatic berth in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. The $150,000 entry fee and $10,000 in shipping costs will be paid if the colt runs. Crawford said the Des Moines, Iowa-based partnership would wait two weeks and then decide on the colt’s next start.
Richard’s Kid, who has won the Pacific Classic twice, was third, another 2-3/4 lengths behind runner-up Game On Dude.
Chantal Sutherland was aboard Game On Dude, and she lost her left rein late in the race after taking the lead approaching the stretch turn while trying to become the second female jockey to win the race.
”Around the sixteenth pole, as I was switching my stick to the left hand, I pushed my rein loose,” she said. ”It was dangling at the end; it looked awful sloppy. I haven’t done something like that in 13 years. But I don’t think it affected anything. He was still doing what he could do. Just unfortunate.”
Said Game On Dude’s trainer, Bob Baffert: ”Game On Dude ran a good race; the other horse just got us. ‘Dullahan is a nice horse and he thrives on synthetics.”
Baffert’s other entry, Jaycito, was seventh. The Hall of Fame trainer won three other races on the card, including the $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes, giving him 99 career stakes victories at Del Mar.
Dullahan’s win diffused the drama that had been a focal point going into Del Mar’s showcase race of the summer.
Last week, Richard’s Kid, previously trained by Baffert, was sold to an ownership group associated with trainer Doug O’Neill, who beat Baffert in the Triple Crown races this spring. O’Neill’s barn is currently being overseen by his assistant Leandro Mora while O’Neill serves a 40-day medication suspension. Richard’s Kid was transferred to O’Neill’s barn in a move that Baffert had said was handled unprofessionally.
Emotions boiled over at the Pacific Classic draw last Wednesday night, when angry words were exchanged between Baffert’s wife, Jill, and Mark Verge, one of the new owners of Richard’s Kid and the CEO of Santa Anita.
But all that was pushed aside when Dullahan went five-wide into the stretch and rallied under Rosario to wear down Game On Dude.
Mora said Victor Espinoza did exactly what he had told the jockey not to do.
”I told him not to stay inside; he loves to be outside,” he said. ”But he was down inside, and that’s not where I wanted him. He had a chance to get outside, but he didn’t get out. That’s the only thing I’m unhappy about.”
Crawford wore a tie featuring the green and white colors of Barbaro’s racing silks. He and Roy Jackson, who owned the late Kentucky Derby winner, are close friends.
”I just thought maybe asking for a four-legged creature in the heavens to give us a little extra boost today was maybe the right thing to do,” he said.
More than 60 people associated with Donegal Racing were on hand on a sunny, 75-degree day along the Pacific Ocean.
”Some of them had never found their way out here from Iowa before,” Crawford said.
Dullahan joined Came Home in 2002, General Challenge in 1999 and Best Pal in 1991 as the only 3-year-old winners in the 22-year history of the Pacific Classic.
Rail Trip was fourth, followed by Suggestive Boy, Amani, Jaycito, Where’s Sterling, Akkadian and Riveting Reason.
In other stakes:
• Baffert went 1-2 in the $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes, with Capital Account winning by a half-length over stablemate Coil, the 3-2 favorite who won last year’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. Ridden by David Flores, Capital Account ($7.60) ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.56 and covered the last three-eighths of a mile in 34.43. Baffert has won the race six times, including the past four in a row.
• Obviously led all the way in winning the $200,000 Del Mar Mile by a nose, holding off Mr. Commons who rallied from last. The 4-year-old Ireland-bred gelding ran one mile on the turf in a course record 1:32.10 under Joe Talamo and paid $4.20.