Garrett Gomez reacts after Skimming  won the Pacific Classic for the second straight year.

Garrett Gomez reacts after Skimming won the Pacific Classic for the second straight year.

Skimming Repeats, Gives Frankel Sixth Pacific Classic Win

Juddmonte Farms' homebred Skimming set the pace as expected, shook off a surprise challenge from longshot Dig For It, and then drew away to a 5 1/2-length victory over Dixie Dot Com in Sunday's $1-million Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar. Skimming's win, his second straight in the 1 1/4-mile contest, gives trainer Bobby Frankel his sixth victory in just the 11th renewal of the race.

"It felt like and instant replay (of last year's Pacific Classic). It's nice to have the real Skimming back," said winning rider Garrett Gomez. "He felt so good. He felt like he did in winning the San Diego Handicap (gr. III) last year. We had some pressure going around that first turn and he muscled up a bit. But once we went around the turn he let go of the bridle and relaxed. He was just cruising. Then when Alex's horse (Dig For It) came to me at the three-eighths he (Skimming) just jumped into the bridle and took off. He's older and smarter and stronger now. He knows just what he's about."

Dixie Dot Com nipped Dig For It at the wire for second, and Captain Steve finished another half-length back in fourth.

"I rode him all the way around there," said jockey Victor Espinoza of Captain Steve. "And he seemed to run as best as he could. That's all I can say."

"I was disappointed," said trainer Bob Baffert. "I thought he would run better than that. He's just not picking up his feet. When the running started, he tried to start and looked like he was going to do something but he just didn't. I'm going to have to sit on him for a while and get him right. I thought he had turned the corner here, but he's just running on class."

Until Sundown and slight favorite Futural completed the order of finish.

"I never had any horse today," said Futural's jockey, Chris McCarron. "I was asking him coming by the stands the first time and there wasn't anything there. He felt OK -- his legs were OK -- but something had to be wrong. He just wasn't there today."

Sent off as the 8-5 second choice, Skimming returned $5.20, $3.40, and $2.80. Dixie Dot Com paid $5.20 and $4 and Dig For It $4.40. The $1 exacta paid $14.80.

Skimming (Nureyev -- Skimble, by Lyphard) earned $600,000 for his eighth win in 19 career starts, boosting his earnings past the $2-million mark. The 5-year-old has won three of five starts on the year and remains perfect at Del Mar after four starts at the track. Besides his two Pacific Classic wins, Skimming has also won the Californian Stakes (gr. II) and two renewals of the San Diego Handicap, once when run as a grade II and once as a grade III.

"I don't think I'll leave California with him," said Frankel from Saratoga, where he saddled Aptitude prior to his win in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II). "He doesn't like these sandy racetracks in the East. Maybe I'll give him the winter off and then try to get him ready for Del Mar again next year. He loves Del Mar. Maybe it's the footing, maybe it's the turns, maybe the short stretch."

After Best Pal won the inaugural Pacific Classic in 1991, a Frankel-trained horse won the next four renewals, the last two of which were both won by Juddmonte Farms' Tinners Way. His other two Pacific Classic winners were Bertrando (1993) and Missionary Ridge (1992). Frankel's streak was broken in 1996 -- along with Cigar's 16-race winning streak -- when Richard Mandella trainee Dare and Go won the race. Mandella won for a second straight year in 1997 with Gentlemen, before Free House, trained by Paco Gonzalez, won in 1998. Bob Baffert-trained General Challenge took the 1999 renewal but failed in a repeat attempt last year. (Chart, Equibase)