From Countdown to the Breeders' Cup World Championships Newsletter
The countdown to the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita officially hits the second half of the season with Sunday’s TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar. Run at 1 1/4 miles, the $1 million Pacific Classic is the fourth of six “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and figures to have major ramifications as the road winds to Santa Anita later this fall.
Breeders’ Cup will pay the $150,000 entry fee for the connections to start the Pacific Classic winner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and provide the stable a $10,000 travel allowance if the race winner is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup by Oct. 22.
Bernie Schiappa, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Pride and Diamond Pride’s Game On Dude has sat atop the Southern California handicap division for the better part of two years and figures to be a heavy favorite in the Classic for trainer Bob Baffert. The 5-year-old son of 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again already earned an automatic berth into this year’s Classic at Santa Anita when he won Betfair Hollywood Park’s Gold Cup in his last start July 7. Game On Dude, who won Santa Anita’s Big Cap (gr. I) and Goodwood (gr. I) last year and was second in last year’s Classic at Churchill Downs, has also won Santa Anita’s San Antonio (gr. II) in February and Betfair Hollywood Park’s Californian (gr. II) in June and is 8-for-18 lifetime.
While Game On Dude will surely be favored, contention runs deep, most notably from his former stablemate Richard's Kid, who is looking for his third lifetime win in Del Mar’s signature race. The 7-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid was sold privately last week to a group led by Paul Sr., Paul Jr., and Christopher Boghossian’s Triple B Farms. Richard’s Kid, who will now be trained by Doug O’Neill, won the Pacific Classic in 2009 and 2010 and, after a winless two years in Dubai, got back on the beam with a win in Del Mar’s Cougar II (gr. III) July 27.
“The plan is to run him in the Pacific Classic, then look at our options concerning the Breeders’ Cup,” Leandro Mora, O’Neill’s assistant who is running the stable while O'Neill serves a suspension, said. “We’ll have to see what happens with the possibilities and there could be several ways to go with this horse.”
Donegal Racing’s Dullahan will meet older horses for the first time while looking to become the first 3-year-old since Came Home in 2002 to win the Classic. The Dale Romans-trained son of Even The Score was third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) but has really made his niche on synthetics, winning Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) last year and the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) this April.
Jay Em Ess Stable’s Rail Trip, who earned an automatic bid into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with his win in Del Mar’s San Diego (gr. II) July 28 and won the Hollywood Gold Cup in 2009 in for trainer Ron Ellis; Harris Farm’s John Scott, who was second by a half-length in the San Diego for trainer Carla Gaines; Kettle Corn, third, beaten just a length in the San Diego for trainer John Sadler; the mare Amani, third in her U.S. debut in the Clement Hirsch (gr. I), a Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic “Win and You’re In” challenge race at Del Mar Aug. 4 for trainer Neil Drysdale, would also warrant respect should they start in the Pacific Classic.
In addition to Game on Dude, Stephen Foster Stakes (gr. I) winner Ron the Greek and Whitney Handicap (gr. I) winner Fort Larned are the first three horses to earn automatic berths into this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series.