Hronis Racing and John Sadler have now earned back-to-back $1 million Pacific Classic victories, starting with eventual champion Accelerate in 2018 and continuing with rising star Higher Power in the 2019 edition. A 4-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, Higher Power had a single stakes placing to his name when he was entered in this April's Keeneland Horses of Racing Age sale. Hronis Racing stepped up to purchase the colt for $250,000, and he made his most recent two starts on the turf, including a second in a listed stakes at Del Mar last out. The switch back to dirt rewarded the colt's new connections with a Grade 1 victory and an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic.
“The second time is just as sweet,” said Sadler. “It developed pretty much the way we thought. We thought there would be some speed on the inside and the plan was to stalk. It came out the way we thought it would.”
It continues to be a big year for jockey Flavien Prat, who adds the Grade 1 Pacific Classic to his growing list of accomplishments including the Kentucky Derby and Queen's Plate. He piloted the 9-1 Higher Power to a runaway 5 1/4-length victory in the 1 1/4-mile contest, stopping the clock in 2:02.43 over Del Mar's fast main track.
“It has been a great year so far and I'm really happy to win the Pacific Classic at (this) track,” Prat said. “It means a lot to me.”
Quip and War Story were both sharp out of the gate, but it was Quip who went on to take the lead heading down the stretch for the first time. Prat kept Higher Power right off the leader in second through fractions of :23.68 and :47.69, ahead of a bunched-up field of 10 in the early going.
Prat took a confident swing at the race when he gave Higher Power his cue to run around the three-eighths pole, getting first run on the field and striding away confidently into the stretch. The colt turned for home with a two-length advantage and only continued to widen that margin down the lane, hitting the wire 5 1/4 lengths better than runner-up Draft Pick. Mongolian Groom ran very well to finish third, and Tenfold checked in fourth.
“There were no special instructions, just to make him comfortable,” said Prat. “We were in a good spot all the way around. At the three-eighths (pole) I asked, and he took up the bit and went from there. He was traveling well all the way around. I thought he would run a good race today. He had been training so well, I thought he'd have a good one in him today.”
Bred in Kentucky by Pin Oak Stud, Higher Power is out of the good Seattle Slew racemare Alternate. He is a half-brother to millionaire Alternation, sire of this year's Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress, as well as two additional six-figure earners. The colt began his career in the care of Donnie Von Hemel, for whom he ran third in a listed stakes at Oaklawn Park last spring, and Higher Power was also trained by Mike Stidham prior to going through the Keeneland sale.
His first start for Hronis and Sadler came in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, in which the colt finished fifth, beaten 7 1/4 lengths. Higher Power then won an allowance race on turf before finishing second, beaten a half-length, in the one-mile Wickerr Stakes on Del Mar's turf last out. The switch back to the dirt led to a Grade 1 win, and improves Higher Power's overall record to five wins from 13 starts for earnings of nearly $800,000.
“We're so blessed to have great horses and a great trainer with a great staff,” said owner Kosta Hronis. “I can't say enough about that. We felt no pressure today because my wife had surgery on Friday and she did great and is still doing well. Higher Power was an appropriate name today. 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. She got to watch it on TVG. Winning it back to back is a tribute to John Sadler.”
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