Dullahan shatters track record in Pacific Classic
Date Posted: 8/26/2012 10:09:49 PM
Last Updated: 8/30/2012 5:28:05 PM
While all the pre-race buzz surrounded older runners and former barnmates
Game on Dude and Richard's Kid in Sunday's Grade 1, $1 million
at Del Mar, three-year-old Dullahan decided to make some noise of his own.
Campaigned by an approximate 25-strong Donegal Racing partnership, the
chestnut colt smashed the previous track record of 2:00.61 set by Acclamation in
last year's running of the race when speeding through 1 1/4 miles on the
Polytrack in 1:59.54.
Jockey Joel Rosario allowed Dullahan to settle near the rear of the 10-horse
field as 76-1 longshot Riveting Reason set the pace through fractions of :23 3/5
and :46 4/5. Riveting Reason was never allowed a breather, though, pressed the
entire time by Suggestive Boy and Game on Dude. The latter horse, sent off the
6-5 favorite, got the jump on the field when suddenly moving up to take command
through six furlongs in 1:11.
Game on Dude decided to play catch-me-if-you-can and kept motoring right on
into the stretch. Dullahan was forced to go five wide around the turn but dug in
to inch his way up to the leader's outside. The three-year-old son of Even the
Score passed his older rival and pulled off to record a half-length victory to
give his East Coast-based trainer Dale Romans a first stakes win at Del Mar.
"They didn't give me any special instructions," Rosario explained. "Just said
the obvious: he's a closer, save ground if you can, then make a late run. It
worked out perfect. He's a one-paced horse. He just goes and goes. When we went
for home and I saw (Game on Dude) in front of me, I knew I had a big chance. My
horse was coming and coming. He doesn't stop. He's a nice horse; a very nice
"How about that. Oh my God; he ran great!," enthused Tammy Fox, Roman's
assistant trainer. "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."
Dullahan became just the third sophomore to take the Pacific Classic, joining
the ranks of Best Pal (1991), General Challenge (1999) and Came (2002). While
Dullahan had never raced in California before Sunday, at least one of his owners
was eager for the colt to make a trip to the West Coast.
"Jerry Kirke thinks there are only two racetracks in America," said Donegal
Racing head Jerry Crawford in early August, speaking of one partner in
Dullahan's ownership group. "Del Mar and Santa Anita."
"It's true, I love the Southern California tracks," Kirke laughed on
Wednesday when apprised of Crawford's comment during the draw party. "I've been
banging the drum for something like this for about three years. 'Let's go to Del
Mar. Let's go to the Pacific Classic.' I'm ecstatic and Donegal Racing is
"Several of the other three-year-olds that ran in the Triple Crown are either
retired or taking a break from racing," he added. "To have Dullahan being active
and training forwardly for the Pacific Classic is amazing. We're up against a
tough group of older horses, but we're on his favorite surface and hopefully
he'll revert to the form he's shown on it at Keeneland in the past."
While Dullahan's connections had faith in their runner, the betting public
sent him off the 5-1 third choice to return $12.60, $5.20 and $3.40. Game on
Dude ran well in defeat as the favorite, holding Richard's Kid to third by 2 3/4
"Game on Dude ran a good race, the other horse just got us. Dullahan is a
nice horse and he thrives on synthetics," acknowledged Game on Dude' trainer Bob
"That was him making that move on the backstretch. I didn't send him," said
jockey Chantal Sutherland, who had piloting duties aboard Game on Dude. "He just
got strong at the five (furlong pole). He wanted to go. When he put his head in
front of David's horse (David Flores on longshot Riveting Reason), he was fine.
"Then around the sixteenth-pole, as I was switching my stick to the left
hand, I pushed my rein loose. 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."
In a move that shocked most people, Richard's Kid was sold and transferred
from trainer Bob Baffert's barn to Doug O'Neill's shedrow late last Saturday
night. Assistant trainer Leandro Mora has been in charge of the string while
O'Neill serves out a suspension.
"The first thing I told him not to do, he did," stated Mora, speaking of
jockey Victor Espinoza who was chosen to replace Rafael Bejarano on Richard's
Kid. "I told him not to stay inside; he loves to be outside. But he was down
inside and that's not where I wanted him. He had a chance to get outside once
but he didn't get out. That's the only thing I'm unhappy about."
Rail Trip was third by just a length in the 2009 Pacific Classic, and
finished fourth in this 22nd edition of the race. He was followed under the wire
by Suggestive Boy, the filly Amani, Jaycito, Where's Sterling, Akkadian and
"This was a good race for him. He's getting better and better," asserted Rail
Trip's jockey, Jose Valdivia Jr. "This was another step along the way. We had a
perfect trip and he ran a good race. There is better to come with him."
Dullahan earned his first win here since taking the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes
at Keeneland on April 14. That Polytrack test served as a prep for the Kentucky
Derby at Churchill Downs, where the chestnut ran huge to be third after a
troubled, wide trip. While he didn't factor in his past two races -- unplaced
efforts in the Belmont Stakes and Grade 1 Haskell Invitational -- Dullahan
showed signs of his pre-Derby form in the Pacific Classic.
The Kentucky-bred colt ran second on the turf at Saratoga last year in a
maiden before filling the show spot in the Grade 2 With Anticipation on the
grass. He began his love affair with Keeneland's Polytrack when breaking his
maiden in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity, then ran a decent fourth in the
Breeders' Cup Juvenile to close out his two-year-old campaign.
Dullahan only competed twice before the Kentucky Derby, posting a runner-up
effort in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Handicap on grass and taking the Blue Grass. He
improved his record to 3-2-3 from 12 career starts when adding the Pacific
Classic to his resume, and the winner's share bumped his earnings up to
"We had a little over 60 people here, which for us is a very small group. But
some of us have never found our way out here from Iowa before," Crawford said
after the race. "People are going to insist that this is a synthetic horse
because he has won three Grade 1s on synthetic. But there's no one else in the
country that has won three Grade 1s on any surface and placed in graded stakes
on the turf and finished third in the Kentucky Derby.
"I would respectfully submit that the question with Dullahan is not what
surface can he run on, but what surface can't he run on?"
Bred by Phil and Judy Needham and Bena Halecky, Dullahan was purchased for
$250,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He is out of the unraced
Smart Strike mare Mining My Own, whose first registered foal, the Birdstone
gelding Mine That Bird, was named the 2008 champion two-year-old in Canada
following a campaign that included stakes wins in the Grade 3 Grey, Swynford and
Silver Deputy. Mine That Bird went on to post a 50-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby
the following season and also finished second in the Preakness and third in the
Belmont Stakes before retiring with more than $2.2 million in earnings.
Farther back in this female line is 1983 champion older mare Ambassador of
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