Del Mar horse racing consensus picks for Sunday, Aug. 30

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday, August 30 for racing at Del Mar.

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Del Mar horse racing consensus picks for Sunday, Aug. 23

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday, August 23 for racing at Del Mar.

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Del Mar horse racing consensus picks for Sunday, Aug. 9

The consensus box of picks comes from handicappers Bob Mieszerski, Art Wilson, Terry Turrell and Eddie Wilson. Here are the picks for Sunday, August 9 for racing at Del Mar.

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Del Mar: Thrilling win for Weston continues his recent success

  • Drayden Van Dyke guides Weston to the winner’s circle after their victory in the Best Pal Stakes on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. (Benoit Photo)

  • Weston and jockey Drayden Van Dyke, left, overpower Girther with Ricardo Gonzalez, right, to win the Best Pal Stakes on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. (Benoit Photo)

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  • Drayden Van Dyke guides Weston to the winner’s circle after their victory in the Best Pal Stakes on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. (Benoit Photo)

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Weston, a 2-year-old son of Hit It a Bomb, has turned into quite a lucrative investment for his owners, trainer Ryan Hanson and Chris Drakos.

The $7,000 yearling purchase padded his career bankroll to $120,000 Saturday, getting up in the final stride under Drayden Van Dyke to beat 32-1 longshot Girther and win the $150,000 Grade II Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.

Weston is now 2 for 2 after winning his debut by 1 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita on June 21 and could resurface in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 7.Final time for the 6 furlongs was 1:12.72.

“The time was not very impressive, but that doesn’t matter,” Hanson said. “We’ll see how he looks tomorrow and let him tell us what to do.”

It was the first graded-stakes victory of Hanson’s career and his first stakes win of any kind at Del Mar.

“I didn’t think we were going to win it,” the 38-year-old Hanson said. “I thought we’d be second to the (trainer) Peter Miller horse (Girther), who had had a trip over the track.”

Weston, the 5-1 second betting choice, broke alertly and was second up the backstretch behind Girther and jockey Ricardo Gonzalez, who looked through much of the stretch like they’d hold on for a major upset in the major prep for the Del Mar Futurity.

But Weston dug in and gamely got up to win by a neck.

Sonic Brees finished fourth in the original order, but was elevated to third ahead of Ambivalent when the stewards disqualified the latter horse for interference early in the stretch.

“Boy, I had to work hard for that one,” Van Dyke said. “I was happy to win it for Ryan Hanson. He is such a kind man and a good horse trainer. And this horse showed some class, too.

“Ryan told me he never got to paddock him (before the race), but he was just standing in (the gate) like an old pro. I knew I got there in the end.”

Roderick, the 1-2 favored shipper from New York, failed to fire in the seven-horse field and finished last under Flavien Prat, the meet’s second-leading rider behind Umberto Rispoli.

Three races later, Bodhicitta rallied from fourth early on to win the $150,000 Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap by a nose over Tonahutu in the turf race for fillies and mares.

Final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:42.83.

Ridden by Prat and trained by Richard Baltas, the 4-year-old daughter of Showcasing won for the fourth time in 15 starts and improved her career bankroll to $265,808 with the winner’s share of $90,000.

It was the first stakes victory for Bodhicitta, the 9-2 second choice in the wagering who had finished second behind Keeper Ofthe Stars in the Grade I Gamely Stakes on May 25 at Santa Anita. Previously, she was a non-threatening sixth in the ungraded Lady Shamrock Stakes at Santa Anita in December.

Harmless, a 30-1 longshot who set a dawdling pace of 24.52, 49.97 and 1:14.58, faded to finish third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Tonahutu in the seven-horse lineup. Jolie Olimpica was scratched.

Beau Recall, who won last year’s running of the Yellow Ribbon, went postward as the 6-5 favorite and finished fifth with Rispoli aboard

Prat has now won eight stakes races in the first 12 days of a meet that’s been shortened to 27 days.

“It’s (meet) been going well,” Prat said. “I’m sitting on good horses. I had a good post (No. 2) today, so I was able to get right on the fence and save ground. I knew they were going slow, but my filly has a good turn of foot and we got it done.”

Said Baltas: “The race went about like I thought it would. I didn’t see much speed in the race. She has more tactical speed than some of the horses, like Beau Recall and others who come from the back.”

Baltas indicated the $150,000 Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes on Sept. 5 might be next for Bodhicitta.

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Colt euthanized after fracturing knee following race at Santa Anita

ARCADIA (CNS) – A 4-year-old colt fractured a right knee on the gallop out after the sixth race at Santa Anita Park today and was euthanized, at least the 16th horse to die in racing or training-related incidents at the track this season.

Strictly Biz was transported to the Equine Hospital following the injury. After diagnostics and x-rays were performed, it was determined to be an unrecoverable injury and, per recommendation from the attending veterinarian, was humanely euthanized, according to Santa Anita.

Strictly Biz finished sixth in the field of eight in the 5 1/2-furlong race on the turf course for 3-year-olds and up.The start was the fourth of Strictly Biz’s career. He won his debut, Sept. 7, 2018, at Los Alamitos Race Course, finished fourth in his lone start in 2019 and eighth May 15. Each of his final three races was at Santa Anita.

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Colt dies at Santa Anita after training incident

ARCADIA (CNS) – Last Renegade, an unraced 2-year old colt, became the 13th racehorse to die in racing or training-related incidents at Santa Anita this season when he died in a training incident on Friday.

The horse, trained by Peter Eurton, died after what was termed an accident during training, according to information posted on the California Horse Racing Board’s website.

Mike Marten, public information officer for the board, told City News Service on Saturday that Last Renegade “threw his rider, ran loose, and went over the inside rail. He was ambulanced back to his barn where he was attended by his private veterinarian but died shortly thereafter.”

A necropsy is pending, Marten said.

Racing at the track was suspended March 27 in accordance with orders from the Los Angeles County Health Department because of the coronavirus outbreak. However, Santa Anita officials said Thursday that they have submitted a written proposal to resume live racing as soon as possible to the Los Angeles County Health Department and to County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office, and are expecting a response shortly.

Los Alamitos Race Track in Cypress is the only track in California still holding live races. Twelve horse have died there this year from race- related injuries.

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Nadal triumphant in San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita

If trainer Bob Baffert isn’t a tennis fan yet, he might be out swinging a racket sometime soon.

Nadal, named after tennis great Rafael Nadal, put his raw talent to work Sunday at Santa Anita with an eye-opening performance in the $200,000 Grade II San Vicente Stakes as the 1-5 favorite.

The son of Blame sat just off a speeding Ginobili, who set torrid fractions of 21.81 and 44.09 through the opening half-mile, moved up on the inside of the 12-1 longshot around the far turn and won by three-quarters of a length with Joel Rosario aboard.

Ginobili held second by 1 1/4 lengths over Fast Enough, who edged Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm the Court by a neck for third. Final time for the 7 furlongs over a fast main track was 1:22.59.

Baffert’s got four or five 3-year-olds in his barn that could help him earn a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby victory, and Nadal is certainly one of them.

“Today I told Joel, don’t get cute, just go,” Baffert said. “We can rate him some other day. They took it to him, but if we’re gonna get beat, get beat. I trained him light for this, so this is my serious work.

“I thought he was gonna get beat. He got to gut it out today, so he’s got a good foundation now.”

So what’s next for Nadal after he raised his record to 2-0 following a 3 3/4-length victory from the rail in his 6 1/2-furlong debut on Jan. 19 at Santa Anita? He recorded a 98 Beyer Speed Figure in that race.

“I think we’ll go to the Rebel (Grade II stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 14),” Baffert said.

It’s the same route he used with 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who made his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel en route to an historic 3-year-old campaign.

Part owner George Bolton is confident that Nadal will have no trouble stretching out to the Rebel’s 1 1/16-mile distance.

“I think the fun is my old friend, Ned Evans (late owner of Spring Hill Farm), this is his dam side and they are all mile and a quarter-type horses,” he said. “So I think going further should be exciting for Nadal.”

Bolton admitted to being a little antsy before the race.

“This was a huge step up (from his maiden debut) and when you go to the paddock and you’re 1-9, you’re thinking of all the downside in the world,” he said. “There were some nice looking horses in the paddock. The six (Ginobili) looked fast and was fast. He really had to go the whole way and never got a breather.”

Despite sitting just off the rapid fractions, Rosario said he felt confident the whole way.

“He broke sharp and he handled the pressure from the outside,” he said. “I was never worried about it. My horse was moving very well and I was confident because I could feel I had a lot of horse under me. He was very impressive. He ran very fast today and he runs like he’ll like two turns, but you never know until they do it.”

Bolton divulged his strategy when he owns a talented horse.

“I usually just hide at home, put the blinds down and pray that it all holds together,” he joked. “This looks like it could be a special horse here. You just want him to be happy and hold together. He’ll be on the road now, and it will be on different surfaces and he’s going to go a different distance yet again. That’s pretty stiff, and I’m proud we’ve got that chance. If we’d run a dull fifth today I’d be leaving here without that chance.”

Ginobili, named after San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili, shot out of the gate and opened a 1 1/2-length lead on Nadal through a rapid half-mile. He hung in with the winner for much of the stretch run before Nadal wore him down in the final stages.

Ginobili’s trainer, Richard Baltas, doesn’t have any Kentucky Derby aspirations.

“At the quarter pole, I thought I might get (Nadal),” Baltas said. “We’ve got a nice colt, (but) I just don’t think he wants to go very far. He ran great and I’m very proud of him.”

Baltas might not have a Derby contender, but he appears to have a strong candidate for the Kentucky Oaks after Venetian Harbor blew away the Las Virgenes Stakes field by 9 1/4 lengths on Saturday.

Storm the Court, who pulled a 45-1 shocker in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1, put in a nice run to finish fourth in his first race in 100 days. He finished only two lengths behind the winner and figures to improve off the effort.

Nadal closed at 8-1 in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager on Sunday. Holy Bull Stakes winner Tiz the Law also closed at 8-1, but Nadal had $1,484 more to bet on him. “All Other 3-Year-Olds” closed as the 2-1 favorite.

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Wound Tight dominant in winning Unusual Heat Turf Classic at Santa Anita

ARCADIA — Wound Tight, bet down from 5-1 on the morning line to the 3-1 third choice in the wagering, took the eight-horse field gate to wire, easily winning the $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic by 3 1/2 lengths on a Saturday afternoon when Santa Anita carded five stakes restricted to California-breds.

The 5-year-old gelding by Coil, one of only two horses in the field to have won at the race’s 1 1/8-mile distance, finished in 1:48.24 after carving out easy fractions of 23.39, 48.62 and 1:13.

Coming in off a nose victory in a $40,000 optional claimer at Del Mar on Dec. 1, Wound Tight, ridden by Abel Cedillo and trained by Bob Hess Jr., won for the fourth time in 10 starts.

Ward ‘n Jerry, the 2-1 favorite, finished second, a half-length in front of 34-1 longshot Cono. Ashleyluvssugar, a 9-year-old gelding whose career is winding down, finished fourth at 7-2 in the eight-horse field.

“This horse is very strong on the lead,” Cedillo said. “There was no pace, so he was tough on the lead. He never got tired. We came back in front of the grandstand and he still wanted to run.”

The 58-year-old Gerardo Morales, Hess’ assistant who’s been with the barn for 35 years, said he was a bit concerned about the distance.

“But he definitely got the job done. I’m really happy with him,” said Morales, who saddled the winner because Hess was in Florida. “When I saw the fractions, I said, ‘We have a big chance.’ When they turned for home I knew it was all over.”

Fatality in opener 

Uncontainable, a 5-year-old daughter of Acclamation who made 11 starts in her career, broke her right front ankle in the stretch of Saturday’s first race and had to be euthanized, the second fatality in two days at Santa Anita and third racing death of the meeting.

Trained by Peter Miller, Uncontainable won three of her 11 races for earnings of $24,390.On Friday, the Val Brinkerhoff-trained Harliss, seventh in the eight-horse field in the final race of the day, was unsaddled and vanned off. He later had to be euthanized.

A necropsy will be performed on the two horses, as required by the California Horse Racing Board.

Veteran rider delivers 

Agapito Delgadillo, a 53-year-old native of Mexico City, doesn’t get many chances to ride in $150,000 stakes races, but he was aboard the winner of the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.

Stealthediamonds, the 3-1 second choice, broke on top in the six-horse field and never looked back, holding off 1-2 favorite Just Grazed Me to win by a half-length in 1:01.61 for the 5 1/2 furlongs over a firm grass course.

Win streak continues 

Fashionably Fast made it five consecutive victories by winning the $150,000 California Cup Sprint by a neck over Lieutenant Dan, running the 6 furlongs in 1:09.60 over a fast main track as the 2-1 second choice.

Ridden by Tiago Pereira, the Dean Pederson-trained Fashionably Fast, a 5-year-old gelding by Lucky Pulpit, won for the sixth time in 15 races. Demonstrating his gameness, he’s won four of the six by three-quarters of a length or less.

It’s Showtime 

Warren’s Showtime came charging home from fifth to win the $200,000 California Cup Oaks by 3 1/2 lengths under Jorge Velez for trainer Craig Lewis.

Sent postward at 4-1, the 3-year-old daughter of Clubhouse Ride ran the 1 mile on the turf in 1:36.50. The 3-1 favorite, Been Studying Her, finished 11th in the 12-horse field.

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Eight Rings redeems himself with American Pharoah Stakes romp at Santa Anita

  • Jockey John Velazquez is congratulated by trainer Bob Baffert, right, after riding Eight Rings to victory in the eighth race at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey John Velazquez and Eight Rings, second from left, take the lead during the start of the 8th race before winning by six lengths at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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  • Jockey John Velazquez and Eight Rings take the lead during the start of the 8th race before winning by six lengths at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey John Velazquez and Eight Rings take the lead during the start of the 8th race before winning by six lengths at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey John Velazquez and Eight Rings win the 8th race at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey John Velazquez and Eight Rings win the 8th race at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey Edwin Maldonado race at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey Edwin Maldonado on Ground Attack wins the 7th race at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey Edwin Maldonado on Ground Attack wins the 7th race at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey Norberto Arroyo, Jr. falls off Leucothea at the start of the 5th race during opening day of the fall meet at Santa Anita on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey Norberto Arroyo, Jr. falls off Leucothea at the start of the 5th race during opening day of the fall meet at Santa Anita on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Horse racing fans watch the third race during opening day of the fall meet at Santa Anita on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey John Velazquez, left, rides Bast as he wins the 5th race with Comical and Jockey Abel Cedillo placing second during opening day of the fall meet at Santa Anita on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey Ruben Fuentes on Curlin’s Journey takes the lead over Gallovie and Jockey Flavien Prat to win the 4th race at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey Ruben Fuentes on Curlin’s Journey takes the lead over Gallovie and Jockey Flavien Prat to win the 4th race at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jockey Ruben Fuentes celebrates winning the 4th race with Curlin’s Journey at Santa Anita on opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Horse racing fans attend Santa Anita during opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Horse racing fans attend Santa Anita during opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Bonny and Earl Elkin, of Baldwin Park, and Louis Belombre, of Arcadia, watch the races at Santa Anita during opening day of the fall meet on Friday, September 27, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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ARCADIA — When trainer Bob Baffert asked Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez to travel west Friday on opening day of Santa Anita’s fall meet to ride the two big juveniles in his barn, he was a bit apprehensive.

One of them, Eight Rings, ducked in sharply shortly after the start of his last race, the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 2, and dumped jockey Drayden Van Dyke. A sore wrist sidelined Van Dyke until Friday, but Baffert switched jockeys because he wasn’t sure Van Dyke would return in time.

“I told him, ‘Johnny, I’d like you to come out, but this horse, it was dangerous what he did,’” Baffert said. “He said, ‘No Bob. I saw the video and everything and I’d love to come out. Don’t worry about it.’”

Eight Rings, named after New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s eight Super Bowl rings, didn’t disappoint, romping to a six-length victory in the $300,000 Grade I American Pharoah Stakes for 2-year-olds in his first try around two turns, clinching a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

Three races earlier, Velazquez rode the Baffert-trained Bast to a neck victory in the $300,000 Grade I Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, giving the 47-year-old native of Puerto Rico his record 661st graded-stakes victory. He had been tied for first with Jerry Bailey.

“This means a lot,” he said. “(Bailey) is a guy who I rode with for so many years and have looked up to for so long. It’s incredible.”

But the star of the day was Eight Rings, a son of Empire Maker who won his debut by 6-1/4 lengths with Van Dyke aboard before the ill-fated Del Mar race. Baffert’s been high on him for a while.

“It was a good race for him, coming off that last disastrous race,” Baffert said. “When you have a good one like this, you want him to really perform well. We knew we had a superstar in the making, and he showed it today.”

Final time for the 1-1/16 miles was 1:45.41 over a deep, tiring track.

“This track is very demanding, deep, and not only do you have to be really good, but you gotta be in condition, be ready,” Baffert said.

The Hall of Fame trainer said Velazquez will keep the mounts on both horses on Breeders’ Cup weekend at Santa Anita, Nov. 1-2.

“Unfortunately, (Van Dyke) had that incident,” Baffert said. “I didn’t even know if he was going to be 100 percent coming back. I needed something to happen. There’s a lot of pressure with the (ownership) group. You can’t make any mistakes from here on out. This is the playoffs. Every pass has to be completed. I thanked (Velazquez) so much for coming out.”

Eight Rings, the 6-5 favorite, took the lead out of the gate and never looked back. Baffert said adding blinkers seemed to help a lot.

Of the incident at Del Mar, Baffert said, “I think we were jinxed when somebody in the crowd said, ‘Somebody says you can’t lose unless the jockey falls off.’”

Eight Rings was the 1-2 favorite that day.

Bast, a daughter of Uncle Mo, has won two of three races after outlasting 11-1 longshot Comical in the final eighth of a mile. The 1-9 favorite, Bast ran the 1-1/16 miles in 1:46.10.

“She gave me a lot today,” Velazquez said. “I felt she gave me what she could to win the race.”

K P Dreamin finished third, three lengths behind Comical.

American Pharoah’s son, American Theorem, finished second in the American Pharoah, 2-1/4 lengths in front of Storm the Court.

“I’m happy for (trainer) George Papaprodromou, that American Pharoah (colt) that ran second,” Baffert said. “My heart is with American Pharoah, so I’m glad to see his babies are doing well.”

Heading into this weekend, Baffert’s top three Breeders’ Cup hopefuls figured to be Eight Rings, Bast and McKinzie. With his two juveniles winning a pair of Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers on Friday, he’s looking forward to watching McKinzie race in Saturday’s Awesome Again Stakes.

It could be a fun Breeders’ Cup weekend for Baffert.

“If we can keep ’em happy,” he said. “We’ve got McKinzie tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to him. That’s going to be a tough race. My Breeders’ Cup actually is today and tomorrow. Those are my three big guns, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Perhaps the biggest winner of all Friday was Santa Anita management. All the horses came back safely, although Leucothea tossed jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. at the start of the Chandelier and bolted to the outside rail in front of the grandstand, knocking over two photographers while racing to the clubhouse turn. One went to first aid and had only a bruise on her left arm. The other was transported to the hospital for X-rays. Both are going to be OK.

@sham73 on Twitter

Quite the way to kick off the Autumn Meeting at Santa Anita! Hear from Trainer Bob Baffert who spoke with @ScottTVG in the Winner’s Circle following the G1 American Pharoah Stakes! @BreedersCup pic.twitter.com/MiI0P07t3E

— TVG (@TVG) September 27, 2019

Eight Rings did not disappoint in the G1 American Pharoah Stakes!

Another victory on the card for Hall of Famers Jockey @ljlmvel & Trainer Bob Baffert!

We’ll see you in the @TVG @BreedersCup Juvenile this November! #WinAndYoureIn pic.twitter.com/GwDYohqdQW

— TVG (@TVG) September 27, 2019

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Del Mar: Higher Power wins Pacific Classic

  • Hronis Racing’s Higher Power and jockey Flavien Prat win the Grade I, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic, Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar CA. (Courtesy of Benoit Photo)

  • Owner Kosta Hronis, left, has a hug for jockey Flavien Prat, right, after Higher Power’s victory in the Grade I, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic, Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar CA.. (Courtesy of Benoit Photo)

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  • Hronis Racing’s Higher Power and jockey Flavien Prat win the Grade I, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic, Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar CA. (Courtesy of Benoit Photo)

  • Hronis Racing’s Higher Power and jockey Flavien Prat win the Grade I, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic, Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar CA. (Courtesy of Benoit Photo)

  • Jockey Flavien Prat guides Higher Power to the winner’s circle after their victory in the Grade I, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic, Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar CA. (Courtesy of Benoit Photo)

  • Hronis Racing’s Higher Power and jockey Flavien Prat win the Grade I, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic, Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar CA. (Courtesy of Benoit Photo)

  • Jockey Flavien Prat guides Higher Power to the winner’s circle after their victory in the Grade I, $1,000,000 Pacific Classic, Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar CA. (Courtesy of Benoit Photo)

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DEL MAR — Who needs McKinzie, Gift Box and Catalina Cruiser when you have a horse that turns in the type of performance Higher Power did in Saturday’s 29th running of the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar?

Track management might have been a little disappointed when the aforementioned big three couldn’t make the race for various reasons, but Higher Power picked up the slack quite nicely, cruising to a 5 1/4-length victory over Draft Pick while scoring the first graded-stakes victory of his 13-race career in front of an on-track crowd of 20,686.

It was the first Pacific Classic victory in five tries for jockey Flavien Prat, who picked up the mount from Drayden Van Dyke after the latter had ridden the 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro colt to a second-place finish in the Wickerr Stakes on July 21 at Del Mar and a victory in an $80,000 optional claimer on June 14 at Santa Anita, both on the grass.

“Flavien is the top rider here,’ winning trainer John Sadler said. “He’s having a great meet and he’s one of the real bright superstars coming up along the ranks. He won the (Kentucky) Derby this year and he’s just really doing great. It was just a trainer’s decision. He was available and I wanted to use the best rider for this horse today. He’s an up-and-coming rider, there’s no question about that.”

Prat’s agent, Derek Lawson, described his discussion with Sadler leading up to the race.

“I had John Sadler call me into his office and he said, ‘Listen, we’re going to run in the Pacific Classic because I don’t want to run Catalina Cruiser in there,” Lawson said. “He said, ‘You don’t have a mount in there,’ we didn’t, and he gave us the opportunity to work the horse first. Flavien came back after the work and said, ‘This horse worked really well over the main track.’”

Higher Power drilled 6 furlongs in 1:13.40 on Aug. 10 over Del Mar’s main surface, signifying the colt was ready to roll at the juicy price of 9-1.

“The work the other day was very, very important because he not only worked (great), but he galloped out close to a mile, and when (Prat) came off the horse he said, ‘Well that was really easy. This horse really likes the main surface,’” Lawson said.

Enough so that he registered the fifth largest victory in the Pacific Classic, behind only Accelerate (12 1/2 lengths), Game On Dude (8 1/2), Beholder (8 1/4) and Skimming (5 1/2) while earning an all-expenses-paid berth into the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.

Higher Power’s victory also gave Sadler and the horse’s owners, Hronis Racing, an unprecedented second consecutive Pacific Classic victory for trainer/owner with different horses after Accelerate’s smashing victory last summer. Sadler’s the first trainer to win in back-to-back years with different horses.

“The second time is just as sweet,” Sadler said. “It developed pretty much the way we thought. We thought there would be some speed on the inside (Quip set the pace from the No. 2 post) and the plan was to stalk. It came out the way we thought it would.”

Said Prat, who’s enjoyed a spectacular year by also winning the Derby via disqualification and one of Canada’s biggest races, the Queen’s Plate: “When we entered the backside he really grabbed the bit and I was travelling really well. Once the leader fell apart, he really jumped into the bridle and did everything on his own.

“I didn’t know if somebody would come from behind, but definitely I thought that was the right thing to do. It has been a great year so far and I’m really happy to win the Pacific Classic at this track. It means a lot to me.”

The victory also meant a lot to Team Sadler/Hronis, who have been on a roll the past 12 months with consecutive Pacific Classic victories and also a win in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic with Accelerate, giving Sadler his first Breeders’ Cup victory.

So what do they do for an encore?

“Let’s do that (again),” Kostas Hronis said.

Added Sadler: “What I’m so happy about this year, too, is that I don’t have to go through, ‘You haven’t won one (Breeders’ Cup race) yet. So you guys (reporters) are going to have to find some other angle to torture me with.”

Higher Power’s winning time of 2:02.43, over a main track that has played slow all summer, was the slowest non-Polytrack time in Pacific Classic history. It was the fourth slowest ever, counting the Polytrack years (2007-14).

Mongolian Groom finished third, a neck behind Draft Pick. Seeking the Soul, one of a race-record four shippers from out of state and the 2-1 favorite, finished seventh. The pacesetting Quip wilted to finish ninth in the 10-horse field, ahead of only 46-1 longshot For the Top.

Hronis’ wife had successful surgery Friday and he said he was going to skip the race, but his wife had other ideas.

“Higher Power was an appropriate name today,” he said. “I was going to stay with her today and she said, ‘No, you’re going to the race. If you don’t, I’m never going again.’ I called her right after the race and she was thrilled.”

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