Skimming made all the pace before kicking clear of Tiznow and General Challenge at the top of the stretch to win the $1-million Pacific Classic (gr. I) by two lengths Saturday at Del Mar. The win gives trainer Bobby Frankel his fifth Pacific Classic win in just the 10th running of the event.
Ecton Park closed for third, finishing a 1 1/4 lengths behind 3-year-old Tiznow. 1999 Pacific Classic winner General Challenge, Euchre, Forty One Carats, and River Keen completed the order of finish.
Laffit Pincay Jr. replaced Corey Nakatani aboard betting favorite General Challenge after Nakatani sustained a fractured left clavicle in a spill during the sixth race.
"He¹s very difficult to ride. To put Laffit in that situation is tough," said trainer Bob Baffert. "You can't blame him."
With Garrett Gomez in the irons, Skimming completed the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.22 over a fast track, and returned $11.40, $6.40, and $4.80. The $1 exacta returned $25.20.
Skimming, with Forty One Carats pressing his pace, set fast fractions of :22.79 and :45.53. Skimming continued through six furlongs in 1:09.86 with Tiznow up in second, and a fading Forty One Carats third. Skimming burst clear at the top of the stretch to lead by 2 1/2 lengths in midstretch, before Tiznow inched closer to the final margin.
"We were cookin' out there; I knew that. But I was just riding him the way Bobby (Frankel) told me to," said Gomez. "Bobby said 'Leave him alone and let him do what he wants.' So I did."
Under Pincay, General Challenge moved into contention on the turn before flattening out in the stretch. "This horse drives you crazy," Baffert said. "I don't like the way he came back. He doesn't look quite right to me. That's not the horse we know."
Skimming (Nureyev--Skimble, by Lyphard) is a 4-year-old Juddmonte Farms Inc. homebred. He raced in Europe through February of this year while trained by Barry Hills. Since switching to Frankel's barn, Skimming has won two optional claiming races and the San Diego Handicap (gr. III), the latter by eight lengths. Skimming earned $600,000 for the win, his fifth victory from 12 career starts.
After Best Pal won the inaugural Pacific Classic in 1991, Frankel won the next four renewals, the last two of which were both won by Juddmonte Farms' Tinners Way. His other two Pacific Classic winners were Bertrando (1993) and Missionary Ridge (1992). Frankel's streak was broken in 1996, along with Cigar's 16-race winning streak, when Richard Mandella trainee Dare and Go won the race. Mandella won for a second straight year in 1997 with Gentleman, before Free House, trained by Paco Gonzalez, won in 1998. (Chart, Equibase