In his first start against older horses, Donegal Racing's 3-year-old Dullahan caught favored Game On Dude in the final yards of the $1-million TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sunday, running his record to a perfect 3-for-3 in Grade 1 races on Polytrack and setting a new track record for 1 1/4 miles at the seaside oval in San Diego County, Calif. Game On Dude finished second, with Richard's Kid third and Rail Trip fourth in the field of 10. Joel Rosario was aboard Dullahan for the first time, taking the son of Even the Score from well off the pace, rallying wide into the stretch and winning by a half-length. Time of the race was 1:59.54.
Completing the order of finish was: Suggestive Boy, Amani, Jaycito, Where's Sterling, Akkadian, and Riveting Reason.
An emotional Jerry Crawford, managing partner of Donegal, told TVG's Christina Blacker immediately race, “It's been a long time that I've felt tears in my eyes at a horse race.” He then added, “I've learned to spell Eclipse Award.”
Whether or not the victory in the Pacific Classic was enough to put the Dale Romans-trained colt back in the championship picture remains to be seen, but it was clearly Dullahan's best performance since his victory in April in Keeneland's G1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. That was run over the same type of Polytrack surface on which he won last year's G1 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity. Since the Blue Grass, Dullahan finished a rallying third to retired divisional leader I'll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby, a dull seventh as the favorite behind Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes, and fifth to Paynter in the Haskell Invitational – all G1 races on dirt.
Riveting Reason shot out to an early lead from the outside post position in the Pacific Classic, tracked early by Game On Dude, who is more accustomed to carving out the fractions. The opening quarter mile went :23.61 and the half-mile in :46.98. Down the backstretch, Game On Dude ranged up to challenge under Chantal Sutherland, taking command after six furlongs in 1:11.08.
Dullahan had just one horse beat in the early going, but rallied four wide into the turn for home, as Game On Dude clocked the one-mile split in 1:35.25. At that point, Dale Romans' wife, Tammy Fox, who handled the training chores for Dullahan after shipping to California from Churchill Downs, picked up on how well Dullahan was moving.
“My heart was just beating,” Fox told TVG. “I knew he was going to win it (at quarter pole).”
Dullahan rallied past a tiring Riveting Reason, then Suggestive Boy and Rail Trip, and took dead aim at Game On Dude. Inside the final furlong, Sutherland, using her left-handed whip, lost her grip on the reins on Game On Dude's left side. Asked afterwards if that made it difference, she said: “It meant nothing.”
Dullahan, bred in Kentucky by Phil and Judy Neeham and Bena Halecky, was purchased at the 2010 Keeneland September sale for $250,000 by Crawford on behalf of Donegal, a partnership based in Crawford's home state of Iowa and named for a county in Ireland where his family comes from. The colt was consigned by Bona Terra Stud, agent.
Dullahan became the fourth 3-year-old to beat his elders in 22 runnings of the Pacific Classic, joining inaugural winner Best Pal (1991), General Challenge (1999), and Came Home (2002). He was the only 3-year-old in the race, getting a six-pound weight break (118 pounds versus 124 for the older males). The only filly in the race, Chilean-bred Amani, carried 119.
The victory improved Dullahan's record to three wins from 12 starts, with earnings of $1.7 million. It was the second consecutive weekend in which trainer Romans was victorious in a G1, $1-million race, having taken the Arlington Million at Arlington Park on Aug. 18 with Little Mike.
The Pacific Classic was a “Win and You're In” qualifying race for the Breeders' Cup Classic, run this year at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 3. As part of the challenge series, that means Dullahan is guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for the Classic, and Breeders' Cup pays the $150,000 entry fee and $10,000 in travel allowance. He joins Stephen Foster Handicap winner Ron the Greek, Hollywood Gold Cup winner Game On Dude, and Whitney Handicap winner Fort Larned as automatic qualifiers.
A on-track crowd of 34,482 was on hand at Del Mar for the TVG Pacific Classic.
Quotes, Courtesy Del Mar Media Office
JOEL ROSARIO (Dullahan, winner) – “They didn't give me any special instructions. Just said the obvious: he's a closer, save ground if you can, then make a late run. It worked out perfect. He's a one-paced horse. He just goes and goes. When we went for home and I saw (Game On Dude) in front of me, I knew I had a big chance. My horse was coming and coming. He doesn't stop. He's a nice horse; a very nice horse.”
CHANTAL SUTHERLAND (Game On Dude, 2nd) – “That was him making that move on the backstretch. I didn't send him. He just got strong at the five (furlong pole). He wanted to go. When he put his head in front of David's horse (David Flores on longshot Riveting Reason), he was fine. Then around the sixteenth pole, as I was switching my stick to the left hand, I pushed my rein loose. It was dangling at the end; it looked awful sloppy. I haven't done something like that in 13 years. But I don't think it affected anything. He was still doing what he could do. Just unfortunate.”
VICTOR ESPINOZA (Richard's Kid, 3rd) – “It was a good race for him. He ran well. They set a track record, you know. They really had to run to beat him.”
JOSE VALDIVIA, JR. (Rail Trip, 4th) – “This was a good race for him. He's getting better and better. This was another step along the way. We had a perfect trip and he ran a good race. There is better to come with him.”
JOE TALAMO (Suggestive Boy, 5th) – “Our trip was fine. We just got outrun.”
GARRETT GOMEZ (Amani, 6th) – “Not today.”
RAFAEL BEJARANO (Jaycito, 7th) – “We had perfect position. But in the end we had no excuses. They just ran too fast for us.”
MARTIN GARCIA (Akkadian, 9th) – “Too far for him. He broke good and was running fine. Then he got real tired.”
DAVID FLORES (Riveting Reason, 10th) – “I tried to steal it, but that's hard to do with a field like this. He ran as good as he could.”
TAMMY FOX, assistant trainer for Dale Romans (Dullahan, winner) — “How about that. Oh my God; he ran great. I'm so glad we can come to California and take the west coast money. They always take our money, now we're taking theirs.”
BOB BAFFERT (Game On Dude, 2nd; Jaycito, 7th) – “Game On Dude ran a good race, the other horse just got us. Dullahan is a nice horse and he thrives on synthetics.
“Jaycito never got into the race.”
LEANDRO MORA (Richard's Kid, 3rd) – “The first thing I told him [jockey Victor Espinoza] not to do, he did. I told him not to stay inside; he loves to be outside. But he was down inside and that's not where I wanted him. He had a chance to get outside once but he didn't get out. That's the only thing I'm unhappy about.”
RON ELLIS (Rail Trip, 4th) – “He ran a good race. He tried very hard, but he just wasn't good enough today.”
RON McANALLY (Suggestive Boy, 5th) — “He could have been a little short.
The winner was a pro on Polytrack. He got a nice fast pace and everything went his way.”
NEIL DRYSDALE (Amani, 6th) “I was a little disappointed…I really don't know what to say until I watch the re-run, but she wasn't as relaxed as she was the other day.”
Owner JERRY CRAWFORD (Donegal Racing) (Dullahan, winner) — “We had a little over 60 people here, which for us is a very small group. But some of us have never found our way out here from Iowa before.
“This is Derby Year 3, the group that owns Dullahan. Each year we have a new group for 3 year-olds and I think there are 24 partners in Dullahan. On race day it seems like we have a lot more.
“I think every (racetrack) needs to have the surface they want. The great news from today is obvious. People are going to insist that this is a synthetic horse because he has won three Grade Is on synthetic. But there's no one else in the country that has won three Grade Is on any surface and placed in graded stakes on the turf and finished third in the Kentucky Derby.
“I would respectfully submit that the question with Dullahan is not what surface can he run on, but what surface can't he run on?
“There was never a moment that he wasn't in exactly the right position. We put Joel Rosario on a horse three weeks ago, Craving Carrots, a 2-year-old at Saratoga and he was magical on that horse. And (Joel) just was magical on the front end that day, and I also saw him perfectly timing finishes.
“When they hit the quarter pole today he was closer than usual to the front, and he's the only horse I've ever owned that has a three-eighths of a mile move. When I saw that Game On Dude was getting the rail trip and we were going at least four wide, I thought ‘Lord, please don't let us lose by a neck.'
“But I knew Joel had a tremendous amount of horse, just from the action of the horse when they turned for home. I thought he would get there, and boy did he.”
According to Trakus, Dullahan ran his last quarter mile in :23.69 and his last eight in :11.77.
The final time is a Polytrack track record. It eclipses the time run last year by Acclamation (2:00.61) in winning this same race.
The stakes win was the first of the meet for jockey Joel Rosario and his first in the Pacific Classic. He now has 20 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win is the first ever at Del Mar for trainer Dale Romans.
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