Richard's Kid successfully defended his title in the $1 million Pacific Classic Presented by TVG (gr. I) (VIDEO) when he came from off the pace to edge Crowded House by three-quarters of a length at Del Mar Aug. 28.
The race was nearly a carbon copy of last year's, with Richard's Kid, ridden by Mike Smith for the the first time since then, going five paths wide out of the final turn to run the leaders down in the stretch. The big difference was the odds. Last year, the 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid went off at 24-1. This time it was 9-2.
Richard's Kid became the third horse to win back-to-back renewals of the Pacific Classic, which is the only $1 million race in California. The others were Tinners Way (1994-95) and Skimming (2000-01), both trained by Bobby Frankel for Juddmonte Farms. This was the 20th renewal of the race,
Bob Baffert trains Richard's Kid, who was owned by Arnold Zetcher when he won last year's race. Zetcher sold the dark bay or brown horse to Zabeel Racing International, the racing operation of Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum.
"The first three jumps out of the gate I said, Oh, ho, here we go. Just like last year.' He gathered himself and he was just going so easy," Smith said. "He was moving just like you'd want. I could tell they were going a little too slow, so I had him up there a little closer than I normally would. But it was easily done. Then it was just like deja vu all over again.
"You know, this is only the second time I've ever been on him. Last year and this. I just want to ride him once a year."
Baffert was at Saratoga and missed the race, which was his first stakes win of the meet. Besides his two wins with Richard's Kid, he also won the Pacific Classic in 1999 with General Challenge.
Crowded House, a group I winner in Great Britain making his second start in the United States, finished second, and San Diego Handicap (gr. II) winner Dakota Phone was third. Battle of Hastings was fourth, with 5-2 favorite The Usual Q. T. fifth.
The final time for the 1 1/4 miles on Polytrack was 2:03.27.
With the win, Richard's Kid earned a berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 6. Richard's Kid ran sixth in last year's BC Classic at Santa Anita.
A field of 10 contested the Pacific Classic. Richard's Kid raced next-to-last for the first six furlongs as Isle of Giant's, as expected, went to the front with Temple City and Hold Me Back tracking. The Usual Q. T., wide into the clubhouse turn, settled into a stalking spot fourth as the leaders made their way unchanged through leisurely fractions of :24.82, :49.25, and 1:13.78.
Isle of Giant's took the field around the final turn but weakened as Temple City took over heading for home. The Usual Q. T. got a head in front at the eighth pole but Crowded House, advancing into contention from between horses for Corey Nakatani, took the lead in deep stretch and Temple City and The Usual Q. T. gave way.
Smith had about seven horses to beat at the quarter pole and angled Richard's Kid to the outside for a clear run through the stretch. After getting the lead, Crowded House finished gamely in the final furlong but could not withstand the challenge from Richard's Kid, who prevailed in the final strides.
"He's a class horse and he was just unfortunate today in that Bob's horse was just ready to roll and did," Nakatani said of the runner-up. "(Crowded House) was going so good. And he fired and ran well. He just had to settle for second today."
Dakota Phone, also closing from far back, finished willingly to be third with Joel Rosario aboard. He was a half-length behind Crowded House.
"That's the way he wants to run from far back," Rosario said. "But the pace wasn't quick enough for him today."
Richard's Kid earned his second win in five starts in 2010. He started the year with a victory in the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita in January, defeating Dakota Phone by a head. He traveled to the $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I) at Meydan Racecourse next, where he finished seventh March 27.
Baffert gave Richard's Kid some time to recover from that and he returned with back-to-back third-place finishes in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and Cougar II Handicap (gr. III). The latter race, at Del Mar July 30, was the same prep Baffert used for last year's Pacific Classic assault. Richard's Kid won last year's race with a big stretch effort by a neck over Einstein.
Bred in Maryland by Fitzhugh from the Broad Brush mare Tough Broad, Richard's Kid won for the eighth time in 26 lifetime starts and boosted his earnings to $1,566,370 with the winner's prize of $600,000.
Sent off as the second choice, Richard's Kid paid $11.60, $5.60, and $3.80. The British-bred Crowded House, fourth in his American debut in the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) at Del Mar July 24, returned $10.60 and $6.40 in his first start for trainer Ben Cecil. The $2 exacta paid $144.20. Dakota Phone was $4.80 to show.
Battle of Hastings and The Usual Q. T. were followed by Temple City, Isle of Giant's, Hold Me Back, Unusual Suspect, and Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Awesome Gem.
Espinoza said The Usual Q. T., now winless in six starts on synthetic tracks, gave his all.
"He made a good move and he tried hard," He said. "But he's a different horse on this track. Put him on the turf and he's a runner."