Del Mar Race Report (Cont.)

Perhaps it was Came Home who was truly the forgotten one, though, cast aside by those who figured the competition was too tough or the distance too far. Despite his uncanny knack for winning races, he still managed to pay $23. His effort, as usual, was thoroughly professional, displaying once more his tractability and pure heart. It may even be enough to erase the sour memory of his lone defeat this year.

"Now I know for a fact he didn't run his race in the (Kentucky) Derby," recalled former rider Chris McCarron, on hand to do television analysis for ESPN. "He was very much in the same position in the Derby. If the distance was the question, he would have run by Proud Citizen and Perfect Drift around the turn, got to the eighth pole, and hit the wall. But that wasn't the case. It just wasn't his day."

It could very well turn out to be his year, though. Save for the Kentucky Derby, Came Home has been untouchable in 2002, and his six major stakes wins so far more than stack up with the accomplishments of fellow 3-year-old standouts War Emblem, Medaglia d'Oro, Repent, and Harlan's Holiday. Moreover, the Pacific Classic went a long way in silencing skeptics who for months have avowed that nine furlongs would prove to be the colt's limit. Bred by McCaffery and John Toffan and co-owned in partnership with William S. Farish and John Goodman, Came Home is being targeted for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) by trainer Paco Gonzalez. For now, however, the loss in Louisville is simply an aberration, according to McCaffery.

"He's matured so much since Kentucky," she said. "I think he's a more confident horse, and I think he's learned to relax better. He's a man now."

An Oaks to Keep

For those closest to Dublino, the filly's disqualification in Hollywood Park's inaugural $500,000 American Oaks last month was hard to stomach. Trying to find a silver lining was even tougher.

"Well, throwing $200,000 back in isn't it," said trainer Laura de Seroux two days later. "At least there wasn't a graded status to throw back in, as well. And we know we have a very, very good filly."

No one would argue. Dublino's performance in the American Oaks--her local debut--was undeniably choice, and on Aug. 24, she duplicated the effort, holding off the lethal late burst of Megahertz to win the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT). This time, it was hers to keep.

Based on their tussle in the American Oaks, their next battle promised to be explosive. They delivered. As before, Dublino got first run down the lane, and, as expected, Megahertz came flying late. This time, the margin was just a nose. The Del Mar turf has played speedway-fast all meet, so it's not surprising that Dublino hit the finish in 1:47.16, just missing the nine-furlong course record. Considering the daughter of Lear Fan is pretty much a rookie, the best may be yet to come.

"This filly nearly beat Sophisticat at a mile this year, so I think any part of the middle distances is no problem for her because she will follow any pace and she has an amazing turn of foot," explained de Seroux. "Dublino has only run four times in her life, and she has a big future next year. And she has no holes in her. She's got a great mind, she's very sound, she's well-made. She's just 100%."

Owned by de Seroux and husband Emmanuel, Michael Klein, Robert Geringer, and Marsha Naify, Dublino is likely to aim for the 1 1/8-mile Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) Oct. 12 at Keeneland. b

(Chart, Equibase)