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Flavien Prat aboard Arabian Knight after winning the 2023 Pacific Classic
The highlight race of the Del Mar summer meeting is the $1 million FanDuel Racing Pacific Classic (G1), featuring the best older horses of the west coast going 1 1/4 miles, and is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Classic at Santa Anita on November 4. Conditions were typical for early September at the seaside oval, with the 12,318 fans in attendance enjoying sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70's. A field of 11 went to post on Saturday, with Southwest Stakes (G3) winner Arabian Knight sent off as the 2-1 favorite off his third place finish in the Haskell (G1). In to challenge him included 9-4 second choice Geaux Rocket Ride, winner of the Haskell after winning the Affirmed Stakes, and 5-1 third choice Defunded, 4th in the San Diego Handicap (G2) after winning the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1).
Arabian Knight (inside) holds off Geaux Rocket Ride in the Pacific Classic
Jockey Flavien Prat sent Arabian Knight to the lead first time by through fractions of 23.55, 46.60, 1:11.42, and 1:36.83 while presse by 55-1 Pirolo and stalked by Geaux Rocket Ride and 11-1 Slow Down Andy. Into the stretch Arabian Knight continued to lead through 9f in 1:49.77. Geaux Rocket Ride under Mike Smith closed the gap late but Arabian Knight held him off to win by a neck in 2:03.19. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Slow Down Andy third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 9 Arabian Knight Prat 6.20 4.40 3.60 1 Geaux Rocket Ride Smith 4.00 2.80 7 Slow Down Andy Gutierrez 4.80 Winning Time: 2:03.19 $1 Exacta 5-2 13.20 $2 Quinella 2-5 12.00 $1 Trifecta 5-2-3 93.60 $1 Superfecta 5-2-3-4 474.70Results Chart
Left: Arabian Knight in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "Those two horses (Arabian Knight and Geaux Rocket Ride) are really good horses. The wire couldn't come soon enough. I kept watching for (Geaux Rocket Ride), I knew the 1 was the horse to beat. He looked fantastic in the paddock. Richard Mandella doesn't run horses in races for the fun of it. I know it was crazy to come back here and run him at 1 1/4 miles but if you're going to get beat, I'd rather get beat in a Grade 1. You don't know until they do (the 1 1/4 miles). And he got it done, but he got it done with a lot of grit at the end. That was a lot of heart; he dug in. I loved the way he digs and fought and he's going to get better. We're going to see how much this takes out of him. It was a tough race, but he didn't look exhausted or anything like that. All of these races are demanding. I'm just enjoying the moment (winning his 7th Pacific Classic) right now."
Right: Arabian Knight in the paddock before the race. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "He's a nice horse and he showed it today. He was running easily for me all the way around. He's lightly raced and I think this race will only make him better. It's an honor to win a big race like this."
Left: Second place finisher Geaux Rocket Ride in the paddock before the race. Jockey Mike Smith said, "Two good horses here; they both gave their best. I thought about staying inside all the way, but then I was afraid I might get stuck down there by the winner. My horse really dug in. It was a great horse race."
Right: Third place finisher Slow Down Andy in the post parade. The Doug O'Neill trainee improved his record to 4 wins, 4 seconds, and 3 thirds in 13 starts, earning $1,096,600 for owner-breeder Reddam Racing.
Du Jour wins the Del Mar Mile (G2)
Jockey Mike Smith sent 20-1 Sumter to the front to set a quick early pace of 22.77, 46.08, and 1:10.14 while pressed by 22-1 Visitant and stalked by Exaulted. Turning for home Sumter tired as 7-1 fourth choice I'm a Gambler, 4th early, inherited the lead through 7f in 1:22.25 before also tiring late. Do Jour, 5th early under Flavien Prat, came out for room and rallied to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths over Exaulted in 1:33.82. It was a head back to Visitant third.
Left: Du Jour in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "That was exciting. He's always been a good horse but he tailed off on us so we gave him a lot of time off. I told (Flaven) Prat he was training like he was when he rode him two years ago. One thing about these grass horses you can run them at an older age and he's getting good at the right time. My wife Jill (co-owner), she was so excited."
Right: Du Jour in the paddock before the race. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "No special instructions for me; I've ridden him before. I had a good trip all the way around. I was behind Exaulted, and I thought he was the horse to beat. I had a chance to tip out and got the jump on him. He's a nice horse; certainly could be a Breeders' Cup Mile horse."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Exaulted in the paddock. Jockey Juan Hernandez said, "I had a little trouble at the quarter-pole. When I got him clear, it was too late. The other horse got a jump on me. I wish I had a better trip."
Right: Third place finisher Visitant in the paddock. The Peter Miller trainee improved his record to 11 wins, 3 seconds, and 3 thirds in 21 starts, earning $712,927 for owner-breeder Williamson Racing.
Gold Phoenix wins the Del Mar Handicap (G2)
Jockey Geovanni Franco sent 39-1 Crosby Beach to the lead saving ground around all 3 turns through fractions of 24.60, 48.74, 1:13.80, and 1:39.28 while pressed by 15-1 Azul Coast and stalked by 13-1 Nineeleventurbo. Into the lane for the final time, Crosby Beach and Azul Coast tired allowing Nineeleventurbo to inherit the lead through 10f in 2:03.87. Favorite Gold Phoenix, 9th early under Juan Hernandez, overcame traffic into the stretch and rallied to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths over Nineeleventurbo in 2:15.34. It was a nose back to 11-1 Cash Equity third.
Left: Gold Phoenix in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Phil D'Amato said, "He was loaded and looked like he had the perfect split. I just love how confident Juan rode him. Did a great job. Juan and I have had good luck over the years. I haven't used him much at the meet but I used him at the right time."
Right: Gold Phoenix in the paddock. Winning jockey Juan Hernandez said, "Plan A was to save ground. My horse relaxed really well today and was so patient. This time I go outside because I had a lot of horses in front of me. So I say I want to swing out and see if I can find something. If not I can go back inside. But I was able to find some space to come through, and after that he flew for home. He is getting better every race. Last time he was a little closer and he was able to keep up that space and able to win that race. I just have to wait and he loved the distance."
Left: Second place finisher Nineeleventurbo in the paddock before the race. Trainer Neil Drysdale said, "It was a nice ride (by Ramon Vazquez). He was in the right place."
Right: Third place finisher Cash Equity returns after the race. The Phil D'Amato trainee improved his record to 6 wins, 2 seconds, and 4 thirds in 21 starts, earning $291,973 for owners Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, and William Strauss.
Ceiling Crusher wins the Torrey Pines Stakes (G3)
Jockey Edwin Maldonado sent Ceiling Crusher to the lead first time by through fractions of 22.14, 46.29, and 1:11.78 while pressed by 25-1 longest shot Pink Ace and stalked by Anywho. Turning for home, Ceiling Crusher left the field behind, drawing off to win by 6 lengths over late-running 9-2 fourth choice Flying Connection in 1:37.41. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to 15-2 fifth choice Justique third.
Left: Ceiling Crusher in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Doug O'Neill said, "I think I had her in a route mentality and last time (in the Fleet Treat) I kept her one turn and it was a difficult challenge. So I think getting her back to two turns, she drew perfectly and Edwin did a great job. We did the old find the lead and improve your position. That confident, arrogant thing you do and often times you get pie all over your face, but this particular time it worked perfectly."
Right: Ceiling Crusher returns after the race. Winning jockey Edwin Maldonado said, "When she was a baby I used to work her for trainer Luis Mendez before she got sold. So it crushed me when she got sold. But I was happy to see her doing so good. Today, you go or you take back and try and save ground. So it was a no brainer but to go with her today. Day and night, now she does everything so easy, effortless."
Left: Second place finisher Flying Connection in the paddock before the race. The Todd Fincher trainee improved her record to 4 wins, 1 second, and 1 third in 10 starts, earning $337,700 for owners Brad King, Jim Cone, Robert L. Lewis, Suzanne Kirby, and Randy Andrews.
Right: Third place finisher Justique in the paddock. The John Shirreffs trainee improved her record to 2 wins, 0 seconds and 3 thirds in 7 starts, earning $185,040 for owner C R K Stable.
Motorious wins the Green Flash Handicap (G3)
61-1 Helladic was quickest away through an opening quarter of 21.74 before 11-1 Fast Buck took over on the turn through 3f in 32.92, the lead pair stalked by 12-1 Bus Buzz. Into the stretch Bus Buzz gained the lead through a half in 44.70 but tired late. Favorite Motorious, 7th early under Geovanno Franco, came out 6 wide for room and rallied to win going away by 1 3/4 lengths over late-running 22-1 Cherubic Factor in 56.07. It was a nose back to 13-2 fourth choice Beer Can Man third.
Left: Motorious in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Phil D'Amato said, "I'm proud of all my horses. They all fired but this horse today was a cut above. We'll gladly take the ticket to the Breeders' Cup. I thought maybe (Franco) was waiting a little too long but I think he knew what he had under him and when he asked him he exploded. We got a lot of pace to run at and Geovanni just found his stride and once he pressed the button, he was gone."
Right: Motorious returns after the race. Winning jockey Geovanni Franco said, "I got lucky enough to where Phil would let me work him a few times in the morning so I got pretty familiar with the horse. Being given the opportunity for me was a blessing and of him being open for the race. To get to ride him, it gave me a lot of confidence. And you know what, I didn't know how much he can run in the afternoon, but he can sure run. Phil told me he needed a clear break out of the gate, and he broke like a champion. From then on it was just a matter of time whenever I was going to ask him to go and he sure did."
Left: Second place finisher Cherubic Factor in the paddock before the race. Trainer Peter Eurton said, "That was a big race. He's a horse that was running for $50,000 at one time. (Motorious) is probably the Breeders' Cup (Turf Sprint) winner right there. He will be difficult to beat. He's so fast."
Right: Third place finisher Beer Can Man in the paddock. The Phil D'Amato trainee improved his record to 7 wins, 3 seconds and 3 thirds in 16 starts, earning $549,764 for owners Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables, and Sterling Stables.
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