Richard Migliore rode the 5-year-old Kingmambo horse, who was previously trained by Neil Howard for for breeder/owner William Farish, and transferred to the barn of Vladimir Cerin. Student Council's only previous stakes win came in the Maxxim Gold Cup at Sam Houston in January. He finished second in the Razorback Handicap (gr. III) in his best graded race showing in his next start March 9.
"We know he likes Polytrack," Cerin said after Student Council defeated the late-trying Awesome Gem by a half-length. Student Council has now won three of his five starts on synthetic surfaces. "Neil Howard did a great job with this horse," Cerin added.
Eager to win the Pacific Classic after his Super Frolic finished third last year and fifth in 2005, Parra bought Student Council on Aug. 10 for an undisclosed price.
The horse was then shipped from Saratoga to Del Mar, where Cerin gave him a few gallops over the new Polytrack surface.
"I'm taking credit for not ruining him in the short time I've had him," said Cerin.
The winning time, 2:07 1/5, was eight seconds off the 17-year Pacific Classic mark set by Candy Ride on the old dirt track in 2003.
The crowd turned out to see Lava Man attempt to complete a sweep of Southern California's richest races -- the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic -- for a second year in a row. The California-bred 6-year-old gelding was hammered to odds of 6-5 while trying to overcome a difficult rail post.
After breaking well, Corey Nakatani took Lava Man back to race along the inside as A.P. Xcellent and Hello Sunday went to the front. Nakatani angled Lava Man to the outside heading into the clubhouse turn, and they rated behind the leaders through splits of :24 4/5, :49 3/5 and 1:14 4/5. As the crowd roared, Lava Man moved to the front-runners at the quarter pole, but no sooner had he popped his head in front coming into the stretch than he was tackled on the outside by Student Council, who roared to the lead under Migliore. Student Council opened a two-length lead in the stretch but had to hold off the late charge of Awesome Gem, ridden by David Flores, closing on the far outside.
"This win means so many things to me on so many levels," Migliore said. "You don't know how hard it has been for me to come out here (from New York) and ride and leave my family behind. But they are all here with me today, and this is so sweet.
"Vlad said this horse was doing well," Migliore said. "He's very well bred. And coming from the Neil Howard barn, I knew he'd be good. This horse was just so professional and classy today. Turning for home I was feeling good, but I knew I had Lava Man with me. I couldn't be sure. But he kept on going. So sweet."
"I thought I was going to catch (Student Council) at the end," Flores said of the runner-up. "But (the winner) shifted out a little bit and I had to go out, too. But he ran great."
Hello Sunday, ridden by Brice Blanc, finished third, 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Lava Man fought on through the stretch, but it was clear that this was not the day for the sentimental favorite, a winner of more than $5.1 million in his career. He faded to sixth.
"He tried hard," Nakatani said. "But he was struggling a bit out there. He wasn't really getting the track."
Under the Breeders' Cup Challenge series format, Student Council has earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27. But Cerin was taking it slowly.
"We have to assess the whole situation," he said. "Everybody wants to win the Breeders' Cup Classic. We tried it once before with Super Frolic (with Parra), who finished fourth. But this was a great, great win."
Student Council won for the sixth time in 21 starts and boosted his earnings to $852,731 after winning $600,000 for his new connections. In his last start for Howard, Student Council ran second -- beaten a head -- in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race at Churchill Downs July 8. That was his first start in more than three months.
The winner paid $48.80, $31.80 and $20.60. Awesome Gem, who was coming off a second-place finish in the San Diego Handicap (gr. II) over the surface July 21, returned $12.40 and $8.20, completing a $355.29 exacta. Hello Sunday, one of two in the race for six-time Pacific Classic winner Bobby Frankel, was $9.40 to show.
Arson Squad finished fourth, followed by Big Booster, Lava Man, Porfido, Albertus Maximus, A.P. Xcellent, Time Squared, Salty Humor and Sun Boat. Tiago scratched.
Del Mar set a single-day record with a wagering total of $24,642,601, bettering the 2005 Pacific Classic day mark of $24,004,733.