Richard's Kid , sent off at odds of 24-1, charged from far back with jockey Mike Smith aboard to win the $1-million Pacific Classic (gr. I) before a crowd of 42,549 at Del Mar Sept. 6, nipping Einstein by a neck in an exhilarating finish.
Purchased recently by Arnold Zetcher, Richard's Kid, a 4-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid , earned his first graded stakes win and sixth victory overall in 19 starts.
"I told Mike Smith before the race to give me a Hall of Fame ride and that's what he did," winning trainer Bob Baffert told TVG immediately after the race. "He's been getting stronger and stronger. He's been training great here. I was going to send him somewhere else, but he was doing so well here I told (Zetcher), 'Let's take a shot.' I bought him for the synthetics. Now we'll enjoy (the win)."
Baffert claimed his second Pacific Classic win after General Challenge in 1999. Baffert enjoyed a tremendous day, winning the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes (gr. I) with Zensational earlier on the card.
In taking the Pacific Classic, Richard's Kid defeated both the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Einstein and the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) victor Rail Trip, who finished third as the narrow 5-2 favorite. The final time for the 1 1/4-mile Polytrack race was 2:02.39.
Richard's Kid, who rallied on the far outside to get up, earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) because the Pacific Classic is a "Win and You're In" race for the classic division.
"Win and you're in, right," Baffert cracked when asked if he was pointing to the BC Classic. "When we bought him we were hoping this is what he'd like (synthetic tracks and 10 furlongs). I told Mike Smith I'd bow down to him in the winner's circle if he got this done, and I did. It's a great feeling to win this race after such a long time."
"Look at who we beat today," said an overjoyed Zetcher. "Einstein, Rail Trip, and all those other great horses. I've been in horse racing a long, long time. This last year has been incredible."
Zetcher won the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park June 6 with another longshot, Gabby's Golden Gal, a filly that he also bred.
Richard's Kid raced second-to-last in the 12-horse field for much of the journey, but launched his bid on the outside near the quarter pole. Rallying five paths wide coming off the turn under encouragement from Smith, he avoided traffic and kept charging. He collared Einstein just before the wire even though Smith lost his whip deep in the stretch drive.
"He was just smooth as silk out there today," said Smith of the winner. "He's a big, heavy-muscled horse; the kind that tends to tie up on you. But he was just doing great today. Every step he made along the way was a good one. He just was rolling all the way. So sweet."
Smith won the Pacific Classic previously with Came Home in 2002.
The five-time grade I winner Einstein was in a perfect stalking position three wide for Julien Leparoux, surging to the front approaching mid-stretch ahead of Parading and Rail Trip, who had weaved his way between horses to challenge. Einstein had their measure in deep stretch, but could not quite hold off the surprising Richard's Kid.
"He made his move just when we wanted him to and we were all but there," Leparoux said. "And then he got beat. But it was very important that he run like this today. After his last race (fifth in the Arlington Million, gr. IT) he had to show well today. And he did."
Einstein, who made his reputation on turf, showed he is not adverse to synthetic tracks with his impressive win in the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap. Trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi said she would point him to the Breeders' Cup Classic as well.
"How can you knock a horse that gives 110% every time," she said. "He ran a winning race, but he just got caught. I was tickled to death (with how he ran)."
Rail Trip, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Einstein, also turned in a huge effort in defeat. He managed to slip through tight quarters, working into contention between horses for Jose Valdivia Jr. He angled in for room in deep stretch, but came up a little short.
"He's never been behind horses before," Valdivia said. "But today he was. I'm used to just pushing the button on him and having him go. But today we had to wait for other horses. It made the difference."
Less fortunate was second choice Colonel John , who was stuck at the rail on the turn and into the crowded homestretch with Garrett Gomez. He fought his way out, but could not find enough room to make an impact. Colonel John finished fifth behind Parading, who bid on the outside of Einstein and had dead aim, but was outrun to the wire.
Gomez said he was happy saving ground at the rail, but the situation changed quickly.
"All of a sudden the leaders backed right up into us and we had nowhere to go," Gomez said. "I had to wait and follow (Rail Trip) through the hole and by then it was too late. Racing luck."
Tres Borrachos, tracked by Mast Track and Misremembered , led the field the first mile through fractions of :23.16, :47.42, 1:12.53, and 1:37.37, but all three weakened abruptly after that.
Unlike his opponents, Richard's Kid was shortening up for the Pacific Classic after placing second in the 1 1/2-mile Cougar II Handicap in his synthetic track debut on Del Mar's Polytrack Aug. 5. He made a huge late run in that race as well in his second start as part of the Baffert barn, but came up a nose short to Unusual Suspect. In preparation for the Pacific Classic, he turned in a bullet :58 4/5 five-furlong work Sept. 1.
Richard's Kid had lost five races in a row since his only prior stakes win, which came in the John B. Campbell Stakes at Laurel Park in February when the Maryland-bred colt was part of Richard Small's stable.
The dark bay colt earned $600,000 for the Pacific Classic victory and has now banked a total of $759,370.
Bred by Fitzhugh, Richard's Kid is out of Tough Broad, by Broad Brush.
Richard's Kid paid $50.80, $22.20, and $12.40. The 7-year-old Einstein, who ran in the Stronach Stables' silks after being purchased by Frank Stronach at the start of the week, returned $6.40 and $4.80. Rail Trip was $3.80 to show.
Parading and Colonel John were followed by Song of Navarone, Awesome Gem, Global Hunter, Informed , Misremembered (the only 3-year-old in the field), Tres Borrachos and Mast Track.