One Perfect Day (Pt. III)

Santa Anita general manager Chris McCarron watched the race with Witzman by the jockey's scale, and thought she was in shock. "Chris grabbed me," Witzman said. "He thought I was going to faint."

Mandella, soaked with sweat and with a grin from ear to ear, couldn't believe what he had accomplished. "I guess I might as well just stay home all the time; forget traveling," he said as he made his way to the track.

After the race, Ford, who resides in Dallas, said that he was "thrilled with the race," and he anticipates keeping Pleasantly Perfect in training next year. "Yeah, I'll vote for that," a jubilant Mandella said.

The whole day was an emotional experience for Mandella, who signed dozens of autographs after the Classic. Following Halfbridled's victory in the Juvenile Fillies, he called his mentor and "second father," V.J. "Lefty" Nickerson, back in New York. The day didn't end with the Classic. Mandella saddled Redattore to a third-place finish in the Seabiscuit Handicap, then watched Gary's horse, Gold Sphinx, win his race.

"I'm really rooting for Gary," he said before the race. "He's such a great kid." After the race, Mandella was as happy as if he had won another Breeders' Cup race. "I want to have grandkids someday, and Gary has to make enough money to be able to afford one," he said with a big smile on his face.

As he walked back to his barn following one of the greatest days in the history of the sport, Mandella took off his jacket, flung it over his shoulder, and let out a big sigh of relief.

"Oh God, I'm exhausted," he said "But it's a good exhausted."

Solis showed up at the barn and kidded with Mandella. "I give you a $4-million ride and a $2-million ride, and I charge you, what, $55?" he said. But there was no one more humble and appreciative than Solis, who has taken a lot of criticism for his lack of Breeders' Cup success.

"All the hard work paid off," Solis said. "I'm proud of what I've done in my life, but my family is the most important thing to me, and it was so special to have them here today. I've always taught my kids, you live life once, so live it to the fullest, and don't ever take the easy way out. I always had faith that God was saving something incredible for me, and this was it.

"It was so special to share it with Dick. He always had faith in me and put me on a lot of great horses. When people would remind him that I've only won one Breeders' Cup race (in 40 mounts), he'd always say, 'Yes, but what about all the million-dollar races he's won for me, so what's the big deal?' "

Trainer Kenny McPeek, who barely knows Mandella, summed it up best when he said, "There is no trainer in North America who deserves this more. If every horse trainer was like Dick Mandella, this game would be great."

A little after 5:30 p.m., the Mandellas got in their white Land Rover and headed for dinner in Santa Monica. It might as well have been a white horse riding off into the sunset.