Chrome draws rail for Pacific Classic
DEL MAR, Calif. – One day after she turned in her final work for a defense of her title in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic on Saturday, Beholder went right back to the track Wednesday morning here at Del Mar, an indication that she’s coming up to the race as good as trainer Richard Mandella could desire.
“She was a little bit fresh,” Mandella said at his barn, marveling at Beholder’s fortitude. “She’s tough.”
She will need to be on Saturday, for this Pacific Classic field is a cut above the runners Beholder embarrassed last year. Nine were entered Tuesday evening, headed by California Chrome – who has a Kentucky Derby, Horse of the Year title, and Dubai World Cup on his résumé – and Dortmund, who returned from an eightmonth layoff and finished just a half-length behind California Chrome in last month’s Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, the local prep for the Pacific Classic.
Bob Baffert, the trainer of Dortmund, also entered Hoppertunity, who was third in the Dubai World Cup in March behind California Chrome.
California Chrome was installed as the 8-5 favorite on the line set by Russell Hudak of Del Mar, with Dortmund the second choice at 5-2 and Beholder at 3-1. The draw provided a bit of drama, as California Chrome, who is known to prefer racing outside of horses, landed the rail. Art Sherman, California Chrome’s trainer, tossed his head back and looked skyward when the post was announced.
“I think there were a lot of happy faces when he drew the rail,” Sherman said Wednesday, referring to his opponents. “But there’s an eternity to get into the turn here.”
Sherman is counting on jockey Victor Espinoza being able to secure a decent position in the five-sixteenths of a mile the field will run before entering the clubhouse turn. Gary Stevens rides Beholder, who drew post 7, while Rafael Bejarano is on Dortmund, who drew post 8.
“It’s going to be a jockeys’ race,” said Sherman, a former jockey.
The field, from the rail out, for the 1 1/4-mile race, is California Chrome (Espinoza the rider), Hoppertunity (Flavien Prat), War Story (Ricardo Mejias), Hard Aces (Santiago Gonzalez), Win the Space (Joe Talamo), Imperative (Norberto Arroyo Jr.), Beholder (Stevens), Dortmund (Bejarano), and Dalmore (Kent Desormeaux).
Saratoga: Alabama Stakes
The way Songbird won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks here four weeks ago, one would have thought the racing office would have had difficulty rounding up horses to face her in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama.
Such was not the case as six 3-year-old fillies – four of whom are graded stakes winners – were entered Wednesday against the champion Songbird, who is undefeated in nine career starts.
Songbird, who will be ridden by Mike Smith, drew post 6 in the Alabama, which will go as race 10 on a 12-race card that begins at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Trainer Dale Romans as much as any trainer subscribes to the “gotta be in it to win it” theory. It was the Romanstrained Keen Ice who upset Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in last year’s Grade 1 Travers. Romans will send out Go Maggie Go against Songbird in the Alabama, run at 1 1/4 miles.
“A year ago proves you can’t duck one horse,” said Romans, adding that Songbird “is obviously a phenomenal filly. Actually, the first time I saw her in the flesh was the other morning when she breezed. She was more impressive to look at and watch move than her form. She’s going to be difficult to beat, but if she stubs her toe, we’re doing good. If not, there’s no shame in running second in a race the quality of the Alabama.”
Go Maggie Go won the Gulfstream Oaks in her second career start, a race that produced Paola Queen, the 55-1 upset winner of the Grade 1 Test, and Off the Tracks, the winner of the Grade 1 Mother Goose. Go Maggie Go also won the Grade 2 Black-eyed Susan before running fourth behind Carina Mia in the Grade 1 Acorn.
Go Maggie Go will break from post 4 under Luis Saez.
Dark Nile will bring a fourrace winning streak into the Alabama, including a 1 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks on July 9. She is 4 for 4 in races contested around two turns.
“It’s a monumental task,” said Elliott Walden, president and chief executive of Winstar Farm, which owns Dark Nile. “It’s something we’re going in with a realistic view of things, but at the same time, horses do get beat, and horses that are improving like Dark Nile is deserve a chance; that’s why we’re running. Sometimes horses don’t run as well the second [start] shipping west to east; it might be the time to take her on. We don’t have any illusions that we’re going to go in there and beat up on her, that’s for sure.”
Dark Nile drew the rail and will be ridden by Joe Bravo.
Flora Dora, third to Songbird in the CCA Oaks, will add blinkers for the Alabama and drew post 7. Weep No More, who pulled off a 30-1 upset in the Grade 1 Ashland, comes off a last-place finish in the CCA Oaks. She drew post 2. Going for Broke, trained by Chad Brown, has won three straight, including a second-level allowance over this track going 1 1/8 miles. She will leave from post 3.